Charlotte, N.C. (AP) – Tony Stewart called Danica Patrick “fearless” on Wednesday, his first comments about her upcoming departure from his race team in a financial move that could end her full-time driving career in NASCAR.
Patrick will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing next season. Unless she can secure significant sponsorship, she likely won’t be able to find another full-time ride.
Patrick is the only woman racing at NASCAR’s top level and she’s also the most accomplished.
“I’ve always been a believer in Danica’s ability as a racecar driver and that continues to be the case. She’s one of the most fearless people I’ve ever met. She has never backed down from a challenge,” Stewart wrote on his Facebook page. “In fact, she’s sought out new challenges throughout her career, and that’s what brought her to NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing.”
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. 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.