Danica Patrick broke down in tears as she confirmed 2017 was her last season as a full-time driver.
“I’m grateful for all the opportunities,” Patrick said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I’m thankful to Dale [Earnhardt Jr. and Kelly [Earnhardt Miller] and Bob Parsons from GoDaddy for getting me into NASCAR. Thank you to Tony [Stewart] and Gene [Haas].
“I don’t feel like I was necessarily pushed into this; I feel like I should be doing this. I feel like this is where my life should be headed. Sometimes we just get kind of nudged there. Sometimes it’s big nudges and sometimes it’s little.
“But I definitely was faced with situations at the beginning of the year that I have never faced before. I’ve never had sponsor issues, but it made me think about things and so I’m excited about the next phase, trust me.”
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver continued to get emotional as she expressed her gratitude to those who have helped her along the way. Patrick also expressed appreciation for her parents, who were in attendance. Also in the room were her sister, brother-in-law and her boyfriend, fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“But I’m not totally done,” Patrick continued. “I’m going to do the Daytona 500 next year and the Indy 500. I’m really excited about that. I think it’s going to be a great way to cap it off.”
While Patrick acknowledged she will never say never to racing after that, the plan is for those two events to be her final races as a driver. The teams Patrick will compete for were not announced, but she said she is “down the line” toward hopefully finalizing those plans.
“I never thought I would do it. I really didn’t,” Patrick said about returning to the Indianapolis 500, where she has six top-10 finishes in seven starts with 29 laps led. “I always thought in my head never, but I never said never because I know better and thank God because here I am.
“It was really a conversation with my agent, Alan [Miller]. We ran through so many different ideas, different teams, different scenarios, just do these races, just do this race … and I have been much more in flow with it. I have not poked and prodded and asked many questions; I have wanted all this to unfold naturally and what was going to be was going to be.
“As I said to many of you years ago, if it’s not going to get better, I don’t want to do it because it’s not fun. Here I am. It’s not fun. So, my urgency to push to keep doing everything was just not really there. … So, he called and said what about finishing up at Daytona, and I don’t know where it came from, but then out of my mouth came, what about Indy? I don’t even know why I said it necessarily, but it was really the first idea that got me really excited.”
The NASCAR season finale on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC) will be Patrick’s 190th start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
In her first full season, Patrick won the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500, becoming the first female to win a Cup Series pole. Patrick has seven top-10 finishes in 189 career starts. She also has seven top-10 finishes and one career pole in 61 starts in the Xfinity Series. In her only full season in the Xfinity Series (2012), Patrick finished 10th in points.
The 35-year-old moved to stock cars after seven years in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Bobby Rahal and Michael Andretti’s teams. Patrick won one race in 115 starts, finishing in the top 10 in points in six of those seasons.
“What I’ve always wanted was to just be remembered as a great driver and then remembered as a girl,” Patrick said. “I don’t care if you remember me as a girl, of course I am, it’s pretty obvious, but to be remembered as a great driver.”
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) November 17, 2017