Danica Patrick says she is out at Stewart-Haas Racing after this season

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Danica Patrick says she will not drive for Stewart-Haas Racing after this season, telling fans in a note on her Facebook page: “My time driving for them … has come to an end due to a new sponsorship arrangement in 2018.”

She did not reveal what her plans for next season would be.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Tuesday morning that Smithfield would join the team as a sponsor in 2018 and that a driver who will be added to the team would be announced at a later date.

Patrick, who is in her fifth full-time season with Stewart-Haas Racing, had said that her future with the team was dependent on sponsorship.

Patrick’s message on her Facebook page to fans:

“It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons. Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way. My time driving for them, however, has come to an end due to a new sponsorship arrangement in 2018. 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. Our amazing partners, such as Aspen Dental and Code 3, stepped up in a big way on short notice this year and I am incredibly grateful.

“I wish SHR the best of luck with their new sponsorship and driver. Thanks for the memories. Right now, my focus is on the remainder of the 2017 season and finishing the year strong. I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future.”

In a recent appearance on the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Patrick told Nate Ryan that she was not worrying about her uncertain future.

“I just don’t feel the weight of anything anymore,” Patrick, 35, said.  I just don’t feel angry about anything. It’s just gone. There are plenty of things I look back and think, ‘That sucked, but you know what? I’m going to go on’.”

Patrick’s future grew cloudy in January when sponsor Nature’s Bakery sought to end its three-year agreement with the team with two years left. Stewart-Haas Racing filed a  $31 million lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. The two sides reached a settlement on May 26 with Nature’s Bakery serving as a sponsor for four races this season. The company was to have the primary sponsor for Patrick’s car in 28 races this season.

Patrick made her Cup debut in the 2012 Daytona 500. She was the first female to race in NASCAR’s premier series since Shawna Robinson last raced in 2002.

Patrick’s 180 career Cup starts heading into Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET,  NBCSN) is more than twice the number of Cup starts from all other female drivers combined. The 15 other female drivers listed in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series media guide combined to make 78 starts, led by Janet Guthrie’s 33 starts from 1976-80.

Patrick’s best career finish in Cup is sixth in 2014 at Atlanta. She ranks 28th in the points this season with a best finish of 10th at Dover in June.

Patrick becomes the latest driver who has not announced a ride for 2018, joining Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.

She said Aug. 15 that she would like to continue racing “if I have an opportunity to do well.” She also said she would drive only in the Cup Series.

Patrick’s interest outside of racing have flourished. Her first book (Pretty Intense”) will be released in January and she has made plans for a sequel. She has opened a Napa Valley vineyard. She has launched her “Warrior” athleisure clothing line, which sponsored her car last weekend at Richmond Raceway.

But Patrick said in the NASCAR on NBC podcast that doesn’t mean she’s ready to leave NASCAR.

“They are not an escape plan, they are not a backup plan, they are purely extensions of things I already do,” she said. “They really are. What I love about racing is the art of it. I love the challenge, the journey. I love the work involved between a group of people to find success. Whether it be through my communication about how the car feels, then you make changes, and it gets better.”

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Truck practice report at Atlanta

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Justin Haley was the fastest in the first of two practices Friday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had a top lap of 178.029 mph.

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter was second with a lap of 177.040 mph. He was followed by Myatt Snider (177.040 mph), Stewart Friesen (176.995) and Noah Gragson (176.589).

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Truck practice will be from 4:05 – 4:50 p.m. ET.

Click here for Truck 1 practice

Police investigating vandalism, theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway

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The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of vandalism and theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the track, which last hosted a NASCAR Cup race in 1996, suffered damage of about $10,000 when several trespassers were on the grounds last weekend. No arrests have been made.

The report states that several windows were broken and other damage was done to the structures. Also, large amounts of electrical wire and circuit breakers were reported missing.

The investigation continues.

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup races from 1949-96. Winners included Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, who won the final race there.

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Others’ predictions motivating Austin Dillon after Daytona 500 win: ‘I guess they don’t believe it yet’

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Fresh off the greatest victory of his NASCAR career, Austin Dillon already has motivation to win the next.

The Richard Childress Racing driver heard others predict this week that the Daytona 500 would be his only victory this season.

“I think on Race Hub, Brad (Keselowski) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson) saying that we weren’t going to win again,” Dillon said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So, that was good to hear. That was something to get me fired up a little bit more and our team, get those competitive juices flowing again. So, we will just keep rocking it however we can. We still have a lot to work on.”

Prior to Daytona, Dillon’s lone win in four seasons as a full-time Cup driver came in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600. His No. 3 Chevrolet qualified for the playoffs the past two seasons, but his top 10s (13 to four) and average finish (15.9 to 18.6) slipped demonstrably from 2016 to ’17.

“So yesterday in my group text with my buddies they watched Chad Knaus and Brad Keselowski, and it was like, ‘All right, it’s time to keep knocking them down, I guess they don’t believe it yet,’” Dillon said. “We’ve got to step up though at RCR. We’ve still got a lot to prove. It’s a speedway race, even though it’s the biggest race in our deal, it’s a speedway race.  We’ve got a lot more to prove.

“(Competition executive) Andy Petree and all the guys are RCR are working hard. I think coming down to a two-car team move is big for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that. I’m not going to lie, I’m tired right now, but we are going to kick butt this weekend and get back regrouped and get in the groove and try and gain as many bonus points as we can.”

But qualifying for the playoffs by winning the season opener should be a morale booster that avoids any letdown.

“The one thing they don’t have right now that we have is a win,” Dillon said. “So, we are on top right now, and no matter what they can’t take that away, and we are going to keep working.  I don’t expect us to lay down at all. I feel like now more than ever we need to go head on and go after it.”

Xfinity practice report from Atlanta

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Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in the first of two Xfinity practice sessions Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bell posted a lap of 178.447 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano (177.323 mph), Cole Custer (175.933), Ryan Reed (175.688) and Kevin Harvick (175.487). Daytona winner Tyler Reddick (175.388) was sixth on the speed chart.

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Xfinity practice will be from 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET

Click here for practice 1 report