Danica Patrick sets up fitting end to NASCAR career

Danica Patrick announced a sponsor for the Daytona 500 on Thursday, but has yet to confirm a team or car or crew.

She has the money, and now she’ll take it to a willing team eager to accept the dollars. Such a team shouldn’t be hard to find.

It’s a fitting scenario for the final race of Patrick’s NASCAR experiment, because the start of her tenure aligned with the beginning of the pay-to-play era at the Cup Series level — and she leaves with it having become a full-blown trend.

Patrick is not to blame for that. You can pin it on the economics of the sport. NASCAR has undergone a big change in recent years, and much of the evolution coincidentally came during the time Patrick was around.

It’s worth remembering that as recently as 10 years ago, race teams had more power than sponsors. Finding sponsorship was separate from finding a driver; the two didn’t come as a package deal. Thus, teams could essentially put whoever they wanted in the car.

Sure, you had Paul Menard and the Menards sponsorship in Cup, starting in 2007. But “bringing a sponsor” was mostly associated with Xfinity and Trucks and didn’t crack NASCAR’s top level until earlier this decade.

Patrick’s deal with GoDaddy, which she brought to Stewart-Haas Racing, showed the power of such an arrangement in Cup. She was able to keep her job despite a lack of success — something that seemed to anger fans initially but later became accepted as the way of the world.

Ultimately, you know how the story ended up. As her teammates won 22 races and recorded 124 top-five finishes in Patrick’s five full seasons, she had zeroes in both those categories. In 190 career Cup starts, she had seven top-10 finishes and posted an average finish of 24th.

But she always had enough sponsorship to secure her seat, regardless of the results. And had that continued to be the case, she would still be racing full-time today.

That started to change when Nature’s Bakery unexpectedly bailed at the start of last season, though. After cobbling together eight different sponsors to get through 2017, SHR and Patrick couldn’t find a major partner to fund the car in 2018.

Once the money was gone, so was she. And now her seat is set to be filled by another driver with funding: Aric Almirola, who arrived with significant sponsorship from Smithfield.

That could have been a disappointingly quiet end to her career, but Patrick wanted to go out in a big way. So she decided to do the “Danica Double,” finishing her career with the Daytona 500 and Indy 500. Because she can.

She personally called GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons to give him a chance to be part of her last races, and the sponsorship emerged once again. Now, with the money in hand, she can pretty much pick her seat.

That concept might have prompted some hand-wringing over the state of the sport back when Patrick first entered NASCAR. But these days, after Patrick helped gain acceptance for such arrangements, it’s just the way business is done.


11 Replies to “Danica Patrick sets up fitting end to NASCAR career”

      1. You can have 5 cars if you play it right. Also. What about that time Chase Elliott drove the 25, while the 5, 24, 48, & 88 was still active? That being said though. I’d expect Chip-Ganassi or Penske just for the sake of them both having Indycar teams as well.

        1. Teams are allowed to run a 5th car for a rookie driver to gain experience in the series. Danica already ran for rookie of the year, so she doesn’t qualify for rookie status. Therefore Hendrick, SHR, or Gibbs can’t offer her a ride.

  1. Danica will go to the RCR 27 car. That charter hasn’t been leased or sold…yet. Only 23 and 27 have open rides with a Charter. Cannot see Danica wanting anything to do with the 23. She wants a high profile ride with a chance to race well. Moreover, GoDaddy, one has to imagine, is requiring a guaranteed spot. Therefore I see this as RCR putting Danica in the 27 for a one-off deal, and THEN finding a “partner” for the remainder of the year to lease/sell/paperwork the charter too.

  2. I believe that it was either Junior Johnson or Bobby Allison that said that “Somethings ‘going on’ with having to have 10 million $$ to run a race car these days…”

    And you know what-He’s right!

    Its just too darned expensive to even begin to consider starting a team under the LOSING economic conditions that are “today’s NASCAR”.

    This new limit on the number of crew members is a soft way, and a pathetic one at that, to try and lower the cost of racing. Its too little too late.

    REAL cost-cutting measures are MUCH more in order, but won’t be done because of the 6 years left on the existing TV contracts:

    1) A MUCH SHORTENED racing season. Why have so many drivers ‘retired young’? How about no opportunity for any kind of “life” which NASCAR’s current oppressive 36 race (plus all the “special” races) season. Add to that any “testing” and there is little room for “life”….having the longest season in sports has done little to slow down the recent rapid decline in fan attendance, TV ratings and relevance. Imagine the TREMENDOUS savings to be had for the owners with a 28 race season? NASCAR was actually MORE popular and better attended back THEN than now…of course at this point there would be no need, or time, for a 10 race “playoff” or “chase” or whatever contrived system to crown a “champion”. It would be an easy to understand SEASON LONG championship. (..by the way-you read it HERE first-No more Brickyard 400 after the 2019 season! The owners just can’t afford to run a NASCAR race with only 30,000 fans in attendance…)

    2) One set of rules for ALL the cars and NO IN SEASON changes. If someone or some manufacturer finds a loophole and becomes dominant, so be it! That’s how it used to be. And the racing cost were MUCH lower then.

    3) GET RID OF SEGMENT RACING! Is it me or are there even MORE yellows (which means MORE tire changes and higher costs) with the new system?

    Its truly sad that we, as fans, are not at all getting 43 of the best stock car drivers in the country. Instead we are now stuck with 40 of the most financially endowed “racers” available. Thats why local tracks have better racing than what you see at “exciting” race tracks like Loudon or California.

    So “pay to play” is here to stay as most of the fans simply go away….

    Alas, more evidence of what I keep saying: R.I.P. NASCAR 1948-2017

  3. I’ll just be glad to read through NASCAR news and not see anything about Danica and her under performing time as an under performing wanna be racer. She may be a driver but she’s far from being a racer. Just let her ride off into the sunset believing she’s only gotten by with her God given abilities and talent on the track.

  4. ” She can pretty much pick her seat” , not a true statement at all. All the major players are running 4 cars already. RCR is not a major team in anybody’s opinion, and neither is Jack’s team. Ricky dumped her once, not sure Jack would allow the disruption. Maybe Childress and the 27 car want the money and turmoil but who knows. Parsons sold 70% of godaddy in 2011 and stepped down as executive chairman. He remains on the board though but is a minority owner of the company. An Equity Consortium Owns Godaddy. No Major Ride For Her. Maybe Chip!!!!

  5. Danicas vineyard is 24 acres in Sonoma valley. 16 acres are in grapes, which are picked them sent to one of the big vineyards to be processed and labeled with her brand. I say Chip gives her a ride, for a lot of go daddy money.

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