News analysis: Danica Patrick gets Aspen Dental sponsorship

What happened: Aspen Dental will increase its primary sponsorship of Danica Patrick this season, Stewart-Haas Racing announced via Facebook Live on Tuesday. The company will be Patrick’s “lead sponsor” for at least 10 races, an increase from four last season.

What it means: The sudden departure of Nature’s Bakery had left a 25-race gap for SHR to fill, so this softens the blow a bit. It also shows at least one of Patrick’s remaining sponsors wanted to double down on supporting her, which could help SHR in selling the other races. In addition, it might ease the minds of some who worried whether Gene Haas would have to pay for Patrick’s races out of his own pocket.

News value (scale of 1-10): Four. It’s basically a sponsor adding six races, but which isn’t huge, but it’s still important that one of Patrick’s backers increased its commitment and began to fill the giant void left by Nature’s Bakery.

Questions: How many races will Aspen Dental actually end up doing, since only a vague “double digit” number was cited? Can SHR continue to sell other races for Patrick once the season starts, or is this it? If Patrick has a below average season again this year, will that hurt her in terms of sponsorship for 2018?