At 9:36 p.m. on September 12, 2017, wire services reported Danica Patrick, NASCAR's only female driver at the highest level, is set to call it quits after a sponsorship shake-up left her without a ride at Stewart-Haas Racing. The news came just over a month after she made her debut with SHR at Texas Motor Speedway.
According to wire reports, the departure of Patrick from SHR is part of a broad restructuring by team owner Gene Haas that will reduce his investment in NASCAR to avoid violating regulations prohibiting team owners from participating in more than one race during the season or owning drivers. As a result, Patrick has been released from her contract with SHR.
"Danica has been a great representative for our company and we wish her the best in all of her future endeavors," said Joe Garagiola, Jr., CEO of G-Eazy Energy Drink, in a statement. "We are proud that she chose green energy over gas at such a successful level."
Patrick, who was born on January 4, 1983, in Columbus, Ohio, started racing go karts when she was 5 years old. She moved up to local short tracks and then opened-wheel races in 2004 when she joined the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Danica Patrick said before of the 2018 Daytona 500 that it would be her final race in NASCAR because she wanted to focus more on her numerous business enterprises. Her stock-car career ended on lap 102, when she was involved in a seven-car crash that put her out of the race. She had been running in the top five when disaster struck: The car ahead of her slammed into the wall trying to avoid a wreck farther back on the track. That sent both of those vehicles flying into the path of another car, which hit them both. "It's just really hard to swallow," Patrick said after the race. "I've worked so hard for this sport and I love it so much, and to have it end like this is disappointing."
Patrick had one win during her two-year stint with the Danbury Racing Corporation team. She also earned $16 million while racing for them.
After the season finale, Patrick announced that she was retiring from full-time racing to pursue other opportunities outside of sports cars. But she promised that she would still make occasional appearances at race tracks across America.
Her retirement was very surprising given that she was one of the most popular drivers in the sport. Just three years earlier, she had become the first female driver to win a race in one of the major leagues when she took home the pole position at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.
Danica Patrick is a professional racing driver, model, and commercial spokesperson from the United States. She is the most successful woman in American open-wheel racing history. She was named Rookie of the Year for the 2005 IndyCar Series season as well as the Indianapolis 500. In 2006, she became the first female driver to win a pole position at the Indianapolis 500. She went on to win four more races that year, including the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Patrick began her career in 2001, when she competed in three events of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The following year, she ran six races with two different teams, finishing 33rd with one top five and one top ten. In 2003, she ran 18 races with two different teams, earning two more top tens and finishing 31st in points.
In 2004, she made her debut in the IndyCar Series, running five races with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, earning one victory (in Brazil) and 10th place in points. That same year, she also made her debut in the World Rally Championship, driving a Ford Focus WRC on seven occasions. She scored one second place and one third place out of those rallies.
In 2005, she returned to the IndyCar Series and this time drove for Bryan Herta Autosport, winning the championship with 3 wins, 6 2nd places, and 1 3rd place out of 17 races.