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

Gotcha! Cole Pearn’s trick is a treat for Martin Truex Jr. at Sonoma

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Martin Truex Jr. took advantage of a strategy play by crew chief Cole Pearn and cruised to his third Cup win of the season Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

Truex’s team faked as if it was going to pit on Lap 73 — Pearn told Truex to pit on the radio — and that brought in Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Truex stayed out another eight laps. With fresher tires, he charged through the field and took the lead shortly before Harvick made his final pit stop on Lap 91. By the time Harvick completed his stop, he was too far back to challenge for the win.

Harvick placed second, finishing 10.5 seconds behind Truex — the largest margin of victory at Sonoma.

“That was awesome!” Truex said on the radio after crossing the finish line.

“Basically the 78 faked us out and decided to run seven or eight more laps,” crew chief Rodney Childers told Harvick after Harvick had made the pit stop on Lap 73.

With Truex winning, there remain just six different winners this season.

After the race, Childers apologized to Harvick.

“I kind of let everybody down there. I apologize,” Childers said on the radio.

“All good,” Harvick said. “Always want to win but stuff happens.”

Clint Bowyer placed third. He was followed by Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.

Stage 1 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin

How Martin Truex Jr. won: Crew chief Cole Pearn’s decision to act as if the team would pit on Lap 73 but then hold Truex out eight more laps, put the race in Truex’s hands. With the race going caution-free to the end, the strategy worked perfectly.

Who had a good day: Stewart-Haas Racing placed all four cars in the top 10 for the second time in the team’s history, duplicating what it did at Phoenix in March. Kevin Harvick was second on Sunday, Clint Bowyer placed third, Kurt Busch was sixth and Aric Almirola finished 10th. … Chase Elliott’s fourth-place finish marked the eighth consecutive race he’s finished 12th or better. … Erik Jones‘ seventh-place finish marked his second top-10 result in the last nine races.

Who had a bad day: AJ Allmendinger won the opening stage but then missed a shift and finished last (38th). … The power steering went out on Ryan Blaney’s car with about 50 laps left. Blaney quickly fell in the standings, finishing 34th.

Notable: Martin Truex Jr.’s win snapped a streak of nine different winners in the last nine years at Sonoma.

Quote of the day: “We knew we were going to do one stop. That was kind of our plan. We just – we really needed them to pit earlier for it to work out. It was a bit of a gamble obviously, but obviously it paid off and worked out great,” crew chief Cole Pearn on his winning strategy.

Next: Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET on July 1 on NBCSN.

 and on Facebook

Stage 1 winner AJ Allmendinger blows engine at Sonoma

Getty Images
Leave a comment

AJ Allmendinger lost the engine on his No. 47 Chevrolet on Lap 33 of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway, not long after winning Stage 1.

Allmendinger was running in 13th when the engine blew, a result of a bad shift. It is his first DNF at Sonoma.

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver, a favorite to contend in road course races, had started the race in fifth and made it to second before drifting back.

Once the race leaders pitted with four and three laps left in the stage, Allmendinger took the lead.

Allmendinger has started in the top five in the last five Sonoma races and not finished better than 14th.

“I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports 1. “Just me. I was trying to be so patient, so smooth with it. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here.”

Jamie McMurray also experienced a mechanical issue that caused his engine to shut off and lose oil pressure, ending his day.

 

 

NASCAR community pays tribute to World of Outlaws driver killed in crash

lenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
Leave a comment

The NASCAR community paid tribute to World of Outlaws driver Jason Johnson, who died after a sprint car crash Saturday night at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway.

Johnson crashed after a restart racing for the lead. Witnesses said that Johnson’s car flipped and went through billboards outside Turn 3, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Johnson won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals. He finished sixth in the points last year in the World of Outlaws.

 

Today’s Cup race at Sonoma: Start time, lineup and more

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There has been a different winner in each of the last nine Cup races at Sonoma Raceway, site of today’s Cup race. Those nine winners have been Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.

Will there be a 10th different winner at the road course?

Here is all the information for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley will give the command to start engines at 3:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 110 laps (218.9 miles) around the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 10:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:20 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEMBroadway Under The Stars in Sonoma Valley, Transcendence’s Meggie Cansler will perform the anthem at 2:55 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 80 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps to win last year’s race. Clint Bowyer placed second. Brad Keselowski finished third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for full qualification results.