Danica Patrick on her future: ‘I just want to do what feels right’

1 Comment

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Danica Patrick told ESPN.com Wednesday that she found out earlier this summer that if sponsorship could not be found, Stewart-Haas Racing would not field a car for her in 2018.

Patrick announced Tuesday that she would not drive for Stewart-Haas Racing after this season, her fifth full-time season with the team. She did not say what her 2018 plans are.

Her announcement came after Stewart-Haas Racing revealed that Smithfield would join the organization as a sponsor for 2018 but did not name a driver. Matt Kenseth said Wednesday that he would not be replacing Patrick next season. Kasey Kahne also said Wednesday that “I don’t really think the 10 is an option, it hasn’t seemed to be.

MORE: Tony Stewart says support for Danica “unwavering”

As for Patrick’s future?

“I just want to do what feels right and what will give me the best chance – if I’m racing, will give me the best chance to perform and get in the winner’s circle, which is what I want to accomplish in NASCAR,’’ Patrick told ESPN.com. “Or if I don’t feel like that’s something that will be possible, then I’m OK with that, too.

If she does not return, it could end a chapter for NASCAR’s most successful female driver even though she has never won a Cup race in 180 career Cup starts.

I hope she can find something,’’ said Kyle Larson, who is friends with Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse. “She’s already done so much for our sport, though. She could leave right now and she’s made a great impact on it.’’

Patrick’s legacy to some will be how she reached a younger audience, while others will look at an unfulfilled career. 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 became the first female driver to start on the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013.

“I think her legacy is already established and really well across all of motorsports, not just in NASCAR, but open-wheel as well,’’ said Stenhouse, who has dated Patrick since 2012. “Racing is something she’s pursued since she was 10 years old, moving to England when she was 16. That’s kind of crazy to think about somebody moving to England when they’re 16 to race.

“I think the things that she’s been able to accomplish and do has been, I would say, the best female driver of all-time, but that’s my opinion and everyone has their own opinion.

Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch says Patrick’s influence has been immeasurable.

“She’s meant a tremendous amount to everybody – to have pioneered the way for many women to look at our sport and that you can have the chance to be competitive, Busch said. She did that in Indy Car and she’s done that everywhere she’s been. I see more female racers around our country and around the world for that matter interested in racing. She paved the way. She’s a true pioneer in this day and age of social media and the power of media recognizing that she’s moving the needle even though she wasn’t running consistently up front.

“She was a very professional teammate and always willing to learn. She maybe had a bit too many rookie mistakes that lingered into the middle part of her career, but we always wanted her to finish the races stronger and to be able to get in there and get those door donuts and get the fenders crinkled up and still come back with a good finish. Some of that isn’t just being a female, it’s that open-wheel mentality that’s tough to bridge out of and all of our group right now you’re seeing a ton of talented young kids or even the veterans that have all come up through late model racing, spent a ton of time in trucks, Xfinity and know the stock cars in and out.

Asked if Patrick belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch said:

“I believe so.  She’s too powerful and too hard to ignore on what she did outside of the car,” he said.“There’s many women that are in the hall of fame in the NHRA world, I don’t see why she wouldn’t be in the hall of fame here in the NASCAR world.”

Patrick’s focus isn’t on that. She’s too busy with so many other projects outside of racing.

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.

“She is very passionate about all her other businesses that she has going,’’ Stenhouse said. “It definitely makes her really happy doing that. So if she didn’t have all those other things going on that she enjoyed, I think I would be a little concerned because nobody wants to just quit racing.

“But I do think she’s in a great place as far as outside of the race car and what she has going on with the winery, the clothing line, the workout book.’’

 and on Facebook

NASCAR America: Erik Jones on why he doesn’t make friends with his competitors

Leave a comment

Back in April Erik Jones told reporters at Daytona International Speedway that when it comes to friends, he brings his to the track. He doesn’t get too close to his fellow drivers in the garage.

On NASCAR America, Jones talked with Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett about the origins of that mindset.

“My dad was always big on it, because at first when I started out my racing career in go karts I just wasn’t that aggressive,” Jones said. “He was like, ‘we bring our friends to the race track. You need to go out there and get aggressive. If you’ve to move someone out-of-the-way, do it.'”

Since then, Jones said his philosophy “never changed.”

“We show up, it’s a late-model team, it’s me a three guys so it’s like, ‘I’ve got all my buddies I need right here,'” Jones said.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones’ racing roots in Byron, Michigan

Leave a comment

After a feature looking at his upbringing in Byron, Michigan, Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones spoke with NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider about the early years of his racing career.

The journey to his NASCAR career began with a yard cart that his late father, Dave Jones, brought home one day when he was 3.

“I rode that all day long around the yard,” Jones said. “Winter time would and we had like a gravel circle driveway in front of our house. When it would snow over I would get the kart out and ride it around in the snow because I could slide and I thought that was pretty cool. I would get it stuck about every five minutes out in the snow.”

Jones would then get out of the kart and find his dad in their barn to come out get him out.

Now 21, Jones also discussed how much his dad was involved in his career until his death in June 2016 after a battle with cancer.

He also explains how he’s never stayed in any series for more than one year in his career.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

Leave a comment

“I sure as (expletive) hope that’s all out of our system.”

That’s what Kyle Busch had to say over his radio after he finished 15th, a lap down in the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch’s day went south after the first stage thanks to two pit miscues the sent him two laps down.

Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. dominate the field to win his fifth race of the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

In the latest “Scan All,” True and crew chief Cole Pearn recap their day, which saw them bounce back from their own pit road mistakes.

Here are other highlights from this week’s “Scan All.”

  • “Can’t drive in a straight line. Something’s not right with the front end.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just before he made contact with the outside wall. A commitment line violation resulted in Stenhouse finish multiple laps off the lead.
  • “Tell the 1 (Jamie McMurray) I don’t know what happened there but we both got the short end of the stick.” – Ryan Newman after contact between him and McMurray sent McMurray spinning on a restart.
  • (Expletive), that 24 (Chase Elliott) can be so much (expletive) faster than us.” – Kasey Kahne after being told he was two laps down.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones recounts rookie Cup season, being taught by Kyle Busch

Leave a comment

Erik Jones, the rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing in the No. 77 Toyota, joined NASCAR America Wednesday for a special show from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 21-year-old driver won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title and is teammates with Martin Truex Jr.

With Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett and Steve Letarte, Jones discussed the challenges and lessons he’s faced in his first full-time season in the Cup Series.

“The biggest (milestones) for me were trying to win a race and making the playoffs,” Jones said. “Obviously, making the playoffs didn’t happen. … I look back at the last few seasons and rookies that have been in the sport and it’s so hard to win races now. You just don’t see rookies do it a lot.”

Jones also discussed finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Bristol night race and his relationship with the driver who brought him into NASCAR beginning with the Truck Series.

“A lot of times when I was racing in Trucks and Xfinity and Kyle would come to race I’d always run second to him,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘you know what the problem is? This is the guy who taught me how to race these cars. So I’m good at all the same tracks he’s good at. Except he’s been doing about 10 more years than I have.”

Watch the video for more.