Ayello: A Danica Patrick return would be great for IndyCar Series

Posted September 15, 2017

Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced today it will join Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as a primary team sponsor beginning in 2018. "We have enjoyed our relationship with Richard Petty over the past five years, but are excited to join SHR and explore new ways to leverage our NASCAR sponsorship", said Kenneth Sullivan, president and CEO.

Danica Patrick will depart Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the season after driving for five years with the team in the hugely popular NASCAR stock vehicle series. She had seven Top-10 finishes in her career and is the only woman to take a pole position for a NASCAR Cup race (2013 Daytona 500).

Patrick spent seven years as an IndyCar driver before making the move to NASCAR in 2012. "I'm just kind of letting it organically flow". I was ready to get out of the Richmond race.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2016, Patrick said, "I don't ever see myself just racing IndyCar anymore" before adding that she's unlikely to ever run the 500 again.

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"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. She has also done the job of attracting a younger female demographic to NASCAR, despite being a polarizing figure among many fans.

She'd likely have to be OK with taking a pretty steep pay cut, and she'd have to find a team where she believes she could be competitive. Her best finish in the final Cup standings was 24th twice (2015 and 2016). Soon to be 26, Julia Landauer (a Stanford grad) might be too old to get a good shot after her good-but-not-great performances on the NASCAR regional level. In 180 career Cup starts, she never won a race.

IndyCar career when she decided to make the jump to NASCAR's top level in 2011. If it were up to her, she'd be preparing for the 2018 NASCAR season. Despite the fact that she's routinely ranked in the mid-to-high 20s overall, Patrick still thinks she can do better.

"I want to continue racing if I have an opportunity to do well", Patrick said August 16. The message Patrick will send to those wondering if she will keep racing is she wants to race for a team that she feels is behind her. Her sponsor, Aspen Dental, hosted an event Wednesday in Streeterville that offered free go-kart rides and the opportunity to receive driving tips from Patrick.