Danica Patrick’s Daytona 500 options becoming scarce
By John Haverlin
December 9, 2017
On Thursday, Chip Ganassi put to bed the rumors of his team fielding Danica Patrick in either the Daytona 500 or Indianapolis 500 next year.
He said the talks have stagnated, indicating that she’ll be running the final two races of her racing career with another team.
“You know, I think it has probably stalled a little bit,” Ganassi said in a Kickin’ The Tires story. “You know the talks have maybe stalled. It’s not anyone’s fault or any reason, I think it is just we, sort of, have different things in mind. Nobody is right or wrong here but, yeah, probably not going to happen.”
Now that Ganassi is out of the running, Patrick’s choices to run the Daytona 500 are becoming slimmer.
She can’t compete with her former team Stewart-Haas Racing, because the organization already has four full-time cars. That’s the maximum each team is allowed in NASCAR’s charter agreement. So, count out Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing as well.
Team Penske doesn’t appear willing to add a fourth car to its Daytona lineup. Penske is expanding to three full-time entries for next season, so adding a fourth car for just one race would be a non-logistical strain on people and resources.
Patrick probably won’t settle for a less-than-competitive team for her final Daytona race. So scratch off Front Row Motorsports, BK Racing, GoFas Racing, Premium Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing and Circle Sport - The Motorsports Group.
There are a few smaller teams affiliated with Richard Childress Racing that could theoretically enter a second car for the 60th running of “The Great American Race,” such as Germain Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing and Leavine Family Racing. However, none of these teams have shown any intent of fielding an additional entry.
RCR’s No. 27 has a murky future. The car has a charter but there’s no indication whether the team will retain it for 2018. Brennan Poole was rumored to the ride, but those discussions have been stagnant for weeks. The organization could field a third car for Daytona as an open entry for Patrick, unless it finds a full-time replacement for Paul Menard, so this remains a possibility.
Richard Petty Motorsports recently aligned with Chevrolet and RCR. The team will compete full-time only with Darrell Wallace Jr. in the No. 43, this organization could enter a second car. There were rumors earlier this season that Patrick could race with this team when she announced her departure from SHR after this year, so maybe Petty is thinking about fielding a second car for her.
Then there’s Roush Fenway Racing. Could Patrick become a teammate of boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for Daytona this February? According to a tweet by ESPN’s Bob Pockrass, that’s not going to happen. However, the tweet was posted before her announcement that the Daytona 500 would be her final NASCAR race … for what it’s worth.
So the final possibility, and this is a stretch, would be Furniture Row Racing. FRR issued this statement in October:
“As Furniture Row Racing looks ahead to the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the Denver, Colo. based team is not planning to field the No. 77 Toyota as a second car entry. It is our organization’s goal to operate a two-car team in the future and we will continue to seek sponsorship funding for the No. 77. Our 100 percent focus for next season will be on the No. 78 Toyota Camry, which will be driven by Martin Truex Jr.”
The team made it clear that it has no desire to run a second full-time car next year, but could it run a part-time entry with adequate funding? This would be an ideal situation for Patrick. Furniture Row was arguably the best team in 2017 and it would likely give Patrick the best opportunity to have an impressive last stand in NASCAR.
Sponsorship, however, will dictate everything. Lack of sponsorship took her away from SHR, just like it took Kasey Kahne away from Hendrick and Matt Kenseth away from Gibbs.
She hasn’t announced her sponsors for Daytona. There’s about two months for her to finalize plans for the last NASCAR race of her career.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Jonny Olkowski/The Racing Experts
Isabel Gonzalez/The Racing Experts Kyle Stephens/The Racing Experts
Kickin’ The Tires