Patrick has few options
DOVER, Del. — Danica Patrick was the darling of Daytona before she put on a helmet. Patrick ushered in the 2013 season accompanied by hype perhaps no other NASCAR rookie had ever faced: Her love life, Super Bowl ads and racy photo shoots were trendy themes that generated more enthusiasm than her actual career accomplishments.
She was projected as the new face of the sport — a face that corporate America adored — was flush with sponsor cash and was counted on as a role model for the next generation of little girls and casual fans. Patrick turned in the best finish by a woman in the Daytona 500.
It may turn out that her career peaked at Daytona.
Her 182-race NASCAR Cup career has never yielded anything close to the Danicamania that engulfed Daytona. She never had a top-five finish for Stewart-Hass Racing. She never won another pole. She never had much success but, along with Earnhardt, was still one of NASCAR’s only true mainstream stars. But as results sank, so did interest in funding her ride. Sponsors bailed, cash dried up and at just 35, Patrick could be facing the final seven races of her NASCAR career.
Patrick has, at least publicly, seemed at peace with this possibility and said there has been little interest from other teams in bringing her aboard next season.
“I’ve had some (discussions) but not a ton,” she said Friday. “I let the business people in my business handle that and have those conversations and figure out what options are out there and I continue to let them do that.”
Even if Patrick somehow found a last-minute primary sponsor, rides are scarce for 2018. Richard Childress Racing and Furniture Row Racing could maybe field a car for her, and she won’t sign with a team that can’t offer a competitive ride.
Of course, Patrick made more of an impact than most drivers with a collection of checkered flags.
“The inspiration that you are told that you bring to people, especially to kids,” she said. “That’s a role that you can’t buy your way into. You have to earn that. You can’t just stumble into that. That’s probably the most meaningful.”
Truex wins pole
Martin Truex Jr. will try to win his sixth race of the season from the pole at Dover International Speedway in NASCAR’s third playoff race.
Truex turned a lap of 160.664 mph on Friday to win his second pole of the season. Kyle Busch will start second, and Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth start third and fourth.