By Kenny Bruce | NASCAR.com
Danica Patrick, the only female driver to win the Daytona 500 pole and one of the most popular figures in NASCAR, will not return to compete for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018.
“It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons,” Patrick said Tuesday in a statement posted through Facebook. “Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way. My time driving for them, however, has come to an end due to a new sponsorship arrangement in 2018.
Sponsorship plays a vital role in our sport, and I have been very fortunate over the course of my career, but this year threw us for a curve. Our amazing partners, such as Aspen Dental and Code 3, stepped up in a big way on short notice this year and I am incredibly grateful.
“I wish SHR the best of luck with their new sponsorship and driver. Thanks for the memories. Right now, my focus is on the remainder of the 2017 season and finishing the year strong. I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future.”
Patrick’s best points finish in the MENCS thus far has been 24th, which she accomplished in 2015 and ’16. She is currently 28th in points with 10 races remaining.
Patrick did not address whether she will attempt to continue to compete in NASCAR going forward. Earlier this year she told NASCAR.com she did not know how much longer she wanted to race in the series.
“I said this last year, it’s not any fun to run 20th or 25th,” she said in June. “It’s not.”
Her average finishing position this year is 23rd and she has a career high seven DNFs this season, an increase that could be due in part to NASCAR’s new Damaged Vehicle Policy that limits teams from making repairs to damaged cars in an effort to return to the race.
“Just keep digging. Just letting it flow,” she said of her approach. “… Stop worrying about how you think everything should go and just let it happen. Give it your best all the time, every day, don’t be too worried about how it’s all going to go and, if it’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen and just let it go.”