Danica Patrick out at Stewart-Haas; NASCAR ride in limbo

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Danica Patrick is leaving Stewart-Haas Racing.

won’t return to in 2018, amping up speculation that her NASCAR career will be over at the end of this season.

Patrick, 35, announced the move on her Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

“It has been my honor to drive for , Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons. Together we earned a pole, seven top-10 finishes and 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.”

Her circumstances likely involve another sponsorship twist announced Tuesday. Smithfield Foods is leaving and moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Smithfield may want , currently driving the iconic No. 43 at Petty Motorsports, along for the ride.

“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.”

If Patrick is done, she will leave a conflicted legacy in the sport. She was never competitive in her five full seasons as a Cup driver, including this one.

She does not have a win or a Top 5 finish in 180 races and has never finished higher than 24th in points. Patrick remains the only woman to win a Cup pole — at the 2013 Daytona 500.

But her marketing reach was long, and she drew eyeballs to a sport that is struggling for relevance these days.

“I'm not sure this is the end of her driving career,” said Darrell Waltrip, a NASCAR Hall of Famer and now an analyst with FOX Sports.

File that under TBA. Patrick undoubtedly has carved a niche in the sports and social media universe, well outside the scope of NASCAR.

“She has done a tremendous job marketing her brand and has developed a great reputation,” Waltrip said. “Even if she never drives again, Danica has changed the face of NASCAR and been great for the sport.”

Patrick has been a polarizing queen at that, bringing in a new generation of fans and turning off a number of traditional ones. NASCAR icon Petty once quipped that she would only win a Cup race "if everybody else stayed home.”

And so went the crossfire for five years.

“There’s only so much you can do and as a driver, you are what you are and you do what you do,” she said during Speedweeks in February. “You can change a little bit here and there, style maybe, learn different tendencies. Going from IndyCar to NASCAR you learn some instinctual things or visual cues.

“You have a blueprint as a driver. That is what it is.”

gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com, @georgediaz on Twitter

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Article Danica Patrick out at Stewart-Haas; NASCAR ride in limbo compiled by Original article here

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