Ford says it will step up to assure that Danica Patrick is in every race even if her sponsorship issues persist well into the 2017 NASCAR season.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Danica Patrick was one of the most marketable drivers in NASCAR. An argument can be made that when she arrived at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2013, GoDaddy sponsorship in tow, that it was precisely because of her attractiveness to outside businesses that she ascended to the top level of stock car racing so quickly.
But circumstances change quickly in NASCAR, and as the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series campaign approaches, Patrick’s former strength has become an area of concern. Nature’s Bakery, the primary sponsor for the #10 car for most of 2016, has been either unwilling or unable to pony up the money to do so for 20 races in 2017.
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Patrick’s other sponsors are expected to only be on the hood for a few races each. Not only is that not an ideal situation for a race team to be in so close to Daytona, it’s reached the point where Stewart-Haas has sued Nature’s Bakery for breach of contract.
While it’s not unusual for car manufacturers to step in and assist in cases like this with their high profile teams, what’s different about SHR is that it just switched from Chevrolet to Ford during the offseason. Nevertheless, Director of Ford Performance Dave Pericak said (via Jayski) that his company is committed to help keep the #10 on the track all season long.
“At the end of the day what I can say is that you have my commitment and the commitment of Stewart-Haas Racing and everyone that’s involved that it is not gonna affect our ability to hit the track and run that car and run it the way that it needs to be run. I don’t really want to make any additional comments given where we are in the whole situation, and it’s very unfortunate that we’re going through it right now, but one way or another I can just tell you that you will have that 10 car on the track and it will be ready to perform.”
One would think that other companies would step up and fill the void to ensure Patrick’s Ford never has to endure the indignity of pursuing her first ever Cup Series victory with a blank white hood. Still, while she does have her contingent of fans, it’s possible her lack of performance is catching up with her. The 34-year old has yet to record a top five finish in any Cup Series race or crack the top 20 in the season-ending standings in any season.
Sponsorship woes aren’t unique to SHR, but they’re headaches that every race team would rather avoid. For any companies out there who still believe in Patrick, though, there’s an opportunity to get on board with her for 2017 that likely would come at a bargain price.