Danica Patrick says this will be last full-time season as a driver


HOMESTEAD, Florida — In an emotional press conference where she struggled to keep from crying, Danica Patrick said this will be her final full-time season as a driver.

After uttering that phrase, Patrick repeatedly stopped to wipe her eyes and cry.

“But I’m not totally done,” she said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a press conference that included her family, sister and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse in attendance. “I’m going to do the Daytona 500 next year and the Indy 500. I’m really excited about that. I think it’s going to be a great way to cap it off.’’

Patrick did not announce the teams that she’ll drive for in both races next year.

“We’re down the line with difference facets in moving forward, but nothing is final yet but hopefully it will be soon,” she said of the teams.

Patrick announced Sept. 12 that she was out at Stewart-Haas Racing after this season. Patrick, 35, didn’t have sponsorship and the team will replace her with Aric Almirola next season. Patrick, who is 27th in the points entering Sunday’s seasone finale, has been with Stewart-Haas Racing since 2013. No female has run as many races as her in NASCAR’s history. Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be Patrick’s 190th career Cup start.

“She is a very talented race car driver,’’ car owner Tony Stewart said on the NBC Monday Morning Donuts podcast Sept. 20. “She has the ability to do what probably 95 percent of the drivers in the field don’t have the ability to do. She can stay in NASCAR if she wants. She can go back to IndyCar. She can go sports car racing. She’s very versatile. I want her to do what she’s passionate about and what feels good to her.’’

Danica Patrick after winning the pole for the Daytona 500  on February 17, 2013. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Daytona International Speedway has been the site of some of Patrick’s top career NASCAR highlights.

Patrick made her NASCAR debut in the 2010 Xfinity race at Daytona. Her first career Cup start came in the 2012 Daytona 500. She won her lone Cup pole in 2013 for the Daytona 500. She finished eighth in that race, her best finish in that event.

Patrick drove in the Indianapolis 500 from 2005-11. She finished a career-high fourth in 2005 and placed in the top 10 in six of her seven starts in that race.

“I never thought I would do it (again),” Patrick said of the Indianapolis 500. “I really didn’t. I always thought in my head never, but I never said never because I know better and thank God because here I am. It was really a conversation with my agent Alan (Zucker) … we ran through so many different ideas, different teams, different scenarios, just do these races, just do this race. I have been much more in the flow with it. I have not poked or prodded and asked many questions. I wanted this to unfold naturally and what was going to be was going to be.

Danica Patrick in the Indianapolis 500 on May 11, 2005. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

“As I said to many of you years ago, if it’s not going to get better I don’t want to do it because it’s not fun. Here I am. It’s not fun. My urgency to push to keep doing everything was just not really there. So if something that wasn’t really enticing didn’t come up, I wasn’t going to push for something else.

“He called and just said ‘What about finishing up at Daytona? I don’t know where it came from but then out of my mouth came, ‘What about Indy?’ I don’t even know why I said it necessarily. It was really sort of the first idea that got me really excited. That was it.

“It just came from my heart. I think it’s going to be awesome.”

Although Patrick has not competed in IndyCar since 2011, there are signs that with the right team she could do well in next year’s race.

Formula One driver Fernando Alonso started fifth and led 27 laps before a mechanical issue sidelined him in this year’s race, the first time he had driven in that series. Kurt Busch placed sixth in 2014 when he competed in the race for the first time. Both Alonso and Busch won Rookie of the Year.

Even so, Patrick admits there will be challenges.

“I think it will take a little bit of adjusting,” she said. “It’s different for sure, but I don’t feel that today I’m a worse driver than I was when I drove IndyCars. I’m essentially a better driver. It will take a little bit of acclimating. We’ll cross that bridge once we get a little bit closer. I would like to get in a car before Indy.

“I definitely have like a level of fear and nervousness about it, just a little bit, because it’s been so long, but I believe I will catch on and remember quickly.”

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NASCAR America: Comparing today’s drivers to drivers of yesteryear

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With Kevin Harvick‘s recent run of three consecutive wins, NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte used the opportunity debate which NASCAR legends they compare Harvick and other current drivers to.

Burton compared Harvick to three-time Cup champion Cale Yarborough.

“I think they remind me a lot of each other because they’re both very aggressive, they both got after it, good at every kind of race track,” Burton said.

Earnhardt sees some of 1983 Cup champion Bobby Allison in Harvick.

“Won a championship, won a lot of races, but wasn’t afraid to put his finger in another driver’s chest,” Earnhardt said.

When it comes to Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon, Earnhardt compared him and Denny Hamlin to the late Tim Richmond.

“Mainly in style,” Earnhardt said. “They’re the kind of guys that are a little flashy, a lot of flair outside the car. … Tim was that way. He wasn’t scared to flaunt it a little bit and he enjoyed life outside the race car as much as he did inside the race car.”

Watch the above video for more old school driver comparisons.


NASCAR America: Importance of keeping NASCAR connected to grassroots racing

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The importance of grassroots racing to the future of NASCAR is a constant subject these days thanks to the likes of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

Now NASCAR America’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton get their chance to sound off on the subject.

On Tuesday’s episode, the panel of analysts discussed why keeping NASCAR connected to the short tracks and lower series across the country is vital to the sport’s future.

“We don’t have that national series running old short tracks that draws people to the race track but also draws them to the TV on Saturday and Sunday,” Burton said.

Earnhardt brought up an attempt by Bristol Motor Speedway to purchase the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, last year.  The attempted failed.

“My heart was broken because I thought we had a real opportunity to bring one of the touring series, either the Truck or Xfinity, back to Fairgrounds,” Earnhardt said. “That’s where I think we’re broken or disconnected. The late model guys and the guys that are running on these local tracks don’t have the connection to the Truck Series or Xfinity Series. They need to take those series, Truck or Xfinity, back to the short tracks and bridge that link.”

The three analysts went on to discuss the short tracks and races that were part of their formative racing years.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Auto Club Speedway

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Martin Truex Jr. was once again in championship form Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

That fact frustrated some drivers, especially Kyle Busch.

You can hear his frustrations and more in this week’s Scan All.

Here are some highlights.

— “I mean, he’s a (expletive) idiot for racing that hard 30 laps into a (expletive) race.” – Chad Johnston, crew chief for Kyle Larson after contact with Kevin Harvick wrecked Harvick on Lap 39.

Johnston’s tone cooled once Harvick owned up to his mistake.

“Harvick’s taking responsibility for that, so don’t sweat it,” Johnston said.

— “You did a hell of a job keeping it off that inside wall. I was watching on the roof cam and was like, ‘Oh Lord, don’t hit that one.” – Rodney Childers, crew chief of Harvick.

— “I don’t know what the (expletive) he’s got going on, but damn I don’t have that.” – Kyle Busch observing how much better Martin Truex Jr.’s car was performing

— “This thing went from absolutely horrible to even worse than that.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

— “I don’t even know what the hell we’re doing, what the hell’s going on and what we’re going to do next. It’s been the same all day. We haven’t made any ground on it.” – Kyle Busch as he struggled to keep pace with Larson and Truex.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Biggest storylines through five race weekends

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After five races in the Cup season, NASCAR America’s analysts assessed what the biggest storylines are ahead of this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton took turns sharing what’s stood out to them.

Jeff Burton started off by saying Kevin Harvick‘s success was the “easy answer.”

Burton discussed his surprise at Chevrolet teams underperforming.

“It reminds you in racing that you don’t really know what’s going to happen until it happens,” Burton said. “I’m surprised we haven’t seen more performance from the new Chevy body.”

Earnhardt was surprised at how big Martin Truex Jr’s margin of victory was on Sunday. He beat Kyle Busch by 11.6 seconds.

“I felt like in the first couple of races, maybe we got tricked into thinking the new inspections process had maybe leveled the playing field a little bit, even though Harvick won three in a row,” Earnhardt said. “Then Truex goes out and does what he did last year, maybe even better than he did last year.”

Letarte said his “big shock” for 2018 has been the “lack of change.”

“It’s the same players leading laps that we saw in 2017,” Letarte said. “Everyone is trying to catch up. I’ve always found it the hardest to continue to push your guys, continue to push your race cars when you’re already winning. It’s easy when you’re getting beat to motivate everybody.”

Earnhardt also observed how younger drivers have struggled to shine through five races.

“Across the board, the young guys still aren’t measuring up to the veterans yet,” Earnhardt said.

Watch the above video for more.