News Analysis: Danica Patrick will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing

What happened: Danica Patrick will lose her ride at Stewart-Haas Racing following this season after SHR secured sponsorship for the No. 10 car with a different driver, she said in a Tuesday afternoon Facebook post. This comes after Smithfield said earlier Tuesday it would leave Richard Petty Motorsports for SHR next season.

What it means: Barring the unexpected emergence of a sponsor with a different team, Patrick’s time in NASCAR may be coming to an end. Her return to SHR was dependent on sponsorship, and that necessary funding proved to be elusive — something that could be blamed both on the economic climate in NASCAR and Patrick’s lack of results. From the time she arrived in NASCAR from IndyCar, Patrick had been billed as a driver whose massive marketability could boost the sport — but the results never followed. Her average career finish is currently 24th over 180 Cup starts — this despite being in top-tier equipment throughout — and she has yet to score a top-five finish in a race. Despite the lack of success, Patrick is perhaps the most well-known NASCAR driver outside the sport — yes, even more than Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and one of the most recognizable athletes in the country. Losing a driver of her popularity and star power is yet another blow to NASCAR after it has seen Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Earnhardt all say goodbye.

News value (scale of 1-10): Six. This move seemed to be in the making for months, but it’s above average on the interest scale — like everything with Patrick — due to the driver. Still, the bigger news would be when and if she decides her driving days are over.

Three questions: Does Patrick still want to race, or is she ready to move on and do something else? Has Patrick’s time in NASCAR been a positive or negative for future female drivers trying to break into the sport? If this is the end, what will Patrick’s legacy be?

14 Replies to “News Analysis: Danica Patrick will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing”

  1. I think you’re missing the most important question: if she is really retiring, will NASCAR’s up and coming fanbase be OK?

    Little girls love Danica. They see her as a role model for breaking barriers. They go to the races just so they can watch her.

    If she’s gone, do they still go to the races? Will they still be interested in the sport? Or are they going to leave and further the decline of NASCAR’s fanbase?

    NASCAR needs the millennials and Gen Z to be interested in the sport so it’ll be here for many decades to come. Losing Danica could hurt this, a lot.

    Are we starting to see the beginning of the end for NASCAR?

    1. Nope. It’s not the end of NASCAR. Maybe if she was winning it would be a big deal but since she hasn’t it won’t be as bad as it could’ve been.

    2. This sounds like wishful thinking. Danica is not going to make or break NASCAR. And those little girls are only going to the track if their families are already NASCAR fans (most likely of other drivers).

  2. Danica was never the racer she could have been – but she also failed as a marketing machine. In my opinion, there was a lack of synergy among her, her sponsors, and her fans. What was her target market? Female NASCAR fans? Adult women or teenage girls? Guys wanting to root for a hot chick (sorry, attractive female) who drives fast and turns left? How many web sites or snack bars could she really sell to her fan base? Why not embrace the “only woman in NASCAR Cup” title and seek female-centric sponsors – Belk, Clorox, Victoria’s Secret, Secret Deodorant, Lane Bryant, Oil of Olay, etc. I understand that some may find these comments objectionable, but the fact remains that she’d still have a sponsor, and still have a ride, if she was effectively selling products or brands.

    1. Hot chicks or hot guys – no offense taken to that observation! Totally agree on the female-centric sponsorship.

  3. So we lose a “gender icon” in Danica, and former winner in Kahne, the sport’s most popular driver in Earnhardt, and one of the sport’s best in Kenseth. I’m sure Almirola will duplicate Danica’s futility. Is this the end for Richard Petty ? HOW MANY CHARTERS WILL GO UNUSED WHILE WE LOOK FOR SPONSORS WHO ARE WILLING TO PAY MORE FOR ONE DRIVER THAN MONSTER DOES FOR THE ENTIRE SPORT?

  4. Honestly, it’s a real shame that Danica didnt perform better. I was hoping that her involvement in NASCAR would peak my own daughters interest in the sport. Unfortunately, that never happened because Danica would never run well enough to inspire anything more than cursory interest. I wish her well, and without being too disrespectful, it won’t be too hard to fill that seat with a higher performing driver.

  5. What irked me most about Patrick was her own inflated ego and self importance that she carried herself like a star without the stats to back it up. Why did she not run Xfinity races (like so many of the legitimate cup stars) to get better and improve her stock car skills. It always seemed like she felt she was above running in the lower series even as she was finishing laps down week after week.
    Seriously, does anyone know why she didn’t run Xfinity races for practice?

  6. Notice the negative remarks are mostly men. Why is that? Ego? I personally would like to see a female driver succeed in the sport. We will eventually. Karsyn Elledge may be the next. Any way, it would be good for everyone involved.

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