Pa­trick’s driv­ing ca­reer in jeop­ardy

San Francisco Chronicle - - SCOREBOARD -

Dan­ica Pa­trick, the only fe­male driver at NAS­CAR’s top level, is likely at the end of her driv­ing ca­reer af­ter a spon­sor­ship shake-up left her with­out a ride at Ste­wartHaas Racing.

Pa­trick posted a state­ment on her Face­book page Tues­day say­ing her time with Ste­wart-Haas “had come to an end” due to a new spon­sor­ship ar­range­ment for the team next sea­son. The state­ment came shortly af­ter Smith­field Foods said it will leave Richard Petty Mo­tor­sports to be­come a pri­mary spon­sor at Ste­wart-Haas next year.

The news is a blow to RPM, which is also los­ing driver Aric Almirola. But it also forced changes at Ste­wartHaas, which has strug­gled with spon­sor­ship for three of its four cars, in­clud­ing the No. 10 Ford driven by Pa­trick.

“It has been my honor to drive for Tony Ste­wart, Gene Haas and ev­ery­one at Ste­wartHaas Racing for the past six sea­sons,” said Pa­trick, whose par­tic­i­pa­tion in NAS­CAR has al­ways been po­lar­iz­ing given the at­ten­tion she re­ceives de­spite her lack of suc­cess.

Pa­trick has launched a cloth­ing line, has a book com­ing out next year and has made a huge tran­si­tion into pro­mot­ing a healthy and fit life­style. It has her po­si­tioned for a sec­ond ca­reer at the age of 35 if she chooses. She’s also in a long-term re­la­tion­ship with fel­low driver Ricky Sten­house Jr., who will make his de­but in the play­offs this week­end.

Pa­trick has driven for Ste­wart-Haas Racing her en­tire Cup ca­reer. She has seven top-10 fin­ishes in 180 ca­reer starts and is cur­rently 28th in the stand­ings, the low­est in her Cup ca­reer.

Still, she won the pole for the 2013 Day­tona 500, won an IndyCar race in 2008, is the high­est fin­ish­ing fe­male driver in In­di­anapo­lis 500 his­tory with a third-place run in 2009 and is the only woman to lead laps in both the Indy 500 and the Day­tona 500. Pa­trick is the only woman to win a Cup pole, and those top-10 fin­ishes are the most of any fe­male Cup driver.

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