Smithfield Foods will no longer be the sponsor of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford as the company announced Tuesday that it will join Stewart-Haas Racing as sponsor from 2018 after five years with RPM. Smithfield Foods, which has sponsored the No. 43 vehicle for Richard Petty Motorsports in the past, said Tuesday that it would be joining SHR in 2018.
On Wednesday, Patrick said she learned earlier this summer that Stewart-Haas Racing wouldn't field a auto for her next year if she didn't find sponsorship. Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way.
Patrick has dealt with incredible pressure in her NASCAR career - partly because of the scrutiny of being a woman driver and the questions about whether she deserved her ride or was primarily a marketer filling a race vehicle seat. I was ready to get out of the Richmond race.
Danica Patrick is not ready to give up racing, but she is ready to retire if she can not find a competitive ride with a team that believes in her.
Patrick also said while she wants to start a family (she dates NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), that wouldn't impact her decision.
Patrick had an appearance Wednesday for Aspen Dental in Chicago and told ESPN.com that she's in a good place mentally.
If Patrick is done, she will leave a conflicted legacy in the sport. "In NASCAR, you're better off with a group of guys or girls that are working day and night and diligently for you". But this season, Patrick has not been seeing much success on the racetrack. 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.
And through it all, she has lasted five full-time seasons in a Cup auto.
In a statement, Tony Stewart said he still believes in Patrick's ability. "NASCAR fans will miss her badly in time". Former champion and perennial contender Matt Kenseth is looking for a ride, and you know sponsorship dollars are a part of it.
Unless it was a deal that made sense on a B2B standpoint with her lifestyle brand, it would be a surprise to see her return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
"I want to continue racing if I have an opportunity to do well", Patrick said August 16.