Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Won't return to Stewart-Haas for 2018

Won't return to Stewart-Haas for 2018

Richard Petty Motorsports' future is in limbo after primary sponsor, Smithfield Foods, announced Tuesday it will move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. A new sponsorship arrangement is the reason for her departure, however. The writing has been on the wall for this parting of ways for weeks, as Patrick herself said she probably wouldn't be back for more if she didn't find more sponsorship. Her best finish in a NASCAR race was when she placed sixth in Atlanta in 2014.

Patrick became the first female to start on the pole for the Daytona 500, NASCAR's season-opening race, in 2013 with her qualifying lap of 196.434 miles per hour. Aric Almirola drives the No. 43 for RPM at this time, although the SHR statement only said details of the new driver would be announced at a later date.

"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", Patrick said via her statement. Her top finish through this year's 26-race regular season has been 10 at Dover in the spring.

"It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons", Patrick stated on Facebook Tuesday afternoon".

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41, is also still waiting for to hear what SHR and sponsor Monster Energy will do with his contract. While not likely racing next year, she likely will remain a familiar face at the race track as boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. competes for Roush Fenway Racing.

Even if you're not a Danica Patrick fan, you have to feel sympathetic for the plight she now finds herself in.

Patrick told Yahoo Sports a day before her announcement that she was unsure of what her future held. Her statement today confirmed her reasons for her split from the Stewart-Haas Racing team, but there were no indications of any 2018 plans as of yet; perhaps signaling a potential end to, at least, her stock auto racing career.

Patrick joined Stewart-Haas with a full-time Cup Series ride in 2013, and has had sponsorship issues in recent years-MRN reported at the time that one of Patrick's main sponsors, GoDaddy, left NASCAR altogether in 2015, and the team sued Nature's Bakery for $31 million over alleged missed sponsorship payments for Patrick earlier this year. "... Stop worrying about how you think everything should go and just let it happen".

"I have no interest, as I've said for years now, to run 25th".

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