Ford exec says of Danica Patrick: 10 car ‘will be ready to perform’

Without divulging too many details, Ford Motor Co. executive Dave Pericak said during a Monday conference call that no one should be concerned about the ability of the No. 10 car of driver Danica Patrick to run a full, competitive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season in 2017.

Patrick thought she was set to have Nature’s Bakery serve the primary sponsor on her car for at least 20 races this season, which will begin Feb. 26 with the Daytona 500 live on FOX.

But Stewart-Haas Racing, which fields Patrick’s car, is now suing Nature’s Bakery for breach of contract.

Pericak — who is Global Director, Ford Performance — obviously is well aware of the situation. He said he couldn’t make detailed comments about it because it appears the situation will be resolved in court, but he did offer reassurances that Patrick is in no danger of being sidelined or shorthanded in any way for any part of the season as a result of it.

“What I would say is we’re going to let that unfortunately play out through the court system and see how it works out,” Pericak said. “I’m hopeful that we’re going come to a resolution on that, but 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 going to 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.”

Patrick finished 24th in the Cup points standings last season for the second year in a row.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery last Friday, accusing the company of refusing to pay its bills to sponsor Patrick. In conjunction with filing the lawsuit, SHR issued a statement saying, “Nature’s Bakery is in material breach of its contract with Stewart-Haas Racing. It is an unfortunate situation, as the team has delivered on all aspects of its contract and was prepared to do so again in 2017. Ultimately, this is a situation that will be resolved in a court of law.

“Stewart-Haas Racing remains focused on its preparation for the 2017 NASCAR season where it will again field four entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series while also introducing a full-time NASCAR XFNITY Series team,” the statement continued. “The litigation with Nature’s Bakery will not impact the organization’s on-track efforts.”

According to the Associated Press, “Nature’s Bakery sent a letter to the team on Jan. 19 terminating the sponsorship agreement, and that the company has missed several re-scheduled deadlines to pay. The lawsuit seeks $31.7 million, plus interest for the breach of contract.”

Nevada-based Nature’s Bakery was Patrick’s main primary sponsor in 2016 and was scheduled to be on Patrick’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford for at least 20 races again this year as well as during the 2018 season.

And although Patrick’s penchant for physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle made her a credible pitchwoman for the snack bars and brownies that Nature’s Bakery sells, the company seemed a peculiar fit in NASCAR because it is so small. Nature’s Bakery has fewer than 500 employees, making it one of the smallest companies to sponsor a top NASCAR team.

By comparison, Anheuser-Busch, which sponsors Kevin Harvick’s SHR Ford, has about 150,000 employees worldwide. ExxonMobil, one of Clint Bowyer’s sponsors at SHR, has about 84,000 employees.

Patrick has 154 starts at NASCAR’s top level, with six career top-10 finishes. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, and led a career-high 30 laps last year despite failing to register a single top-10 finish for the first time in her four seasons as a full-time Cup driver.