It’s official. GoDaddy.com, longtime support of Danica Patrick, has announced they are leaving NASCAR when their contract with Stewart Haas Racing is up at the end of the 2015 season. It was a bit of a surprise to some people who expected Patrick and the company she has help make famous to be together for a long while. Patrick and the company will be together just in a much different capacity.
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When announcing they were leaving NASCAR the company did say one thing. That they were still signing Danica Patrick to a personal contract in which she can still appear in commercials for them and be a spokesperson. While that on the outside seems like a good thing, it may hurt Patrick’s reputation as a driver even more. It looks to some people as the sponsor believes in Patrick as a marketing machine like she’s been sold as but doesn’t believe in her ability to win races in the Cup Series.
Nine races into the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and Patrick currently sits 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings. This is a starch improvement from where Patrick has been in her first two seasons in the Sprint Cup Series.
In her rookie season Patrick finished a dismal 27th in the point standings only to follow that up with a 28th place points finish in 2014. For a driver with a team that uses Hendrick Motorsports engines and chassis, bad equipment seems like a lame excuse. Patrick inability to run consistently at the front led the the team to make a change and with three races to go in the 2014 season Patrick’s entire team changed. Stewart Haas Racing announced that the No. 41 teams and the No. 10 teams would swap meaning Patrick was now working with Kurt Busch’s old No. 41 team and Busch was now working with Patrick’s No. 10 team.
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With that change Patrick began to work with crew chief Daniel Knost who won one race with Busch at Martinsville in 2014. Patrick’s old crew chief Tony Gibson joined Busch. Since the chance Busch has excelled, winning last weekend’s race at Martinsville and nearly winning earlier in the season at Auto Club Speedway and this was after Busch missed three races due to a suspension.
Patrick has run well too, which was mentioned before, but she is still a long way off of her teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. In 91 career starts Patrick has led just 20 laps, all of which have come on a superspeedway track which uses a restrictor plate which levels the playing field. Just 7% of her finishes have resulted in top 10 finishes which is a far cry from where people thought Patrick would be. To put it in perspective since 2013 Kevin Harvick has led 3,358 laps and has finished in the top ten 60% of the time and one of those seasons Harvick spent at Richard Childress Racing, a far less superior team than Stewart Haas Racing.
Patrick is still a long way from being a championship contender in NASCAR but that doesn’t mean she is down and out. The next two months of Patrick’s career are vital.
She needs to prove to any potential sponsor willing to lay down upwards of $20 million that they are getting their money’s worth. If she can stay in the top 20 in points then mission accomplished. That should show teams, drivers, fans and most importantly pending sponsorships that she has improved over the last two seasons and has a chance to improve even more.
However if Patrick falls into the driver we’ve seen the last two plus seasons, it could mean the end of Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career, something no one would thought was even possible two years ago.