Patrick happy with Stewart-Haas but says "never say never"

AP News
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Posted: May 01, 2015 4:53 PM

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Danica Patrick wants to remain with Stewart-Haas Racing but understands that GoDaddy's upcoming departure as her primary sponsor has put her future with the team in doubt.

GoDaddy will leave NASCAR at the end of the season and Patrick, who is in the final year of her contract with SHR, said the team and her management group are actively searching for a replacement.

Patrick, one of the few drivers who transcends auto racing, said Friday she knows she needs to keep her options open. She has driven for SHR since 2012, when team co-owner Tony Stewart put her in a limited 10-race Sprint Cup Series schedule.

"I really am happy at Stewart-Haas, and they're working hard already to find someone for the new primary position," Patrick said at Talladega Superspeedway, where she's preparing for Sunday's race.

"My team is working to find someone for the new primary position. At this point in time, we're moving forward with all those intentions. I guess it is on some levels open-season in a lot of areas. You never say never, of course, but I am happy where I'm at right now."

Patrick said she hasn't talked to Stewart about the situation yet, and teammate Kevin Harvick admitted the sponsorship search "can be a little intimidating." Harvick felt that GoDaddy making its decision on Wednesday helps the search for a replacement.

"I think when you know on May 1 and you have somebody like Danica Patrick that's obviously very marketable and she's done a good job on the race track ... I think that the opportunity to go out and find a sponsor is very high," Harvick said. "She's been a great part of being a teammate of myself and everybody with Stewart-Haas Racing.

"I think there's just a lot of decisions to be made on what that costs and how you approach it and where you start."

Patrick remains confident she'll find a primary sponsor for her No. 10 Chevrolet. GoDaddy has been her primary sponsor since 2010 when she raced in the IndyCar Series, and the company followed her to NASCAR. They've used her in 13 Super Bowl commercials, a record for celebrity appearances during the game.

For as popular and recognized as Patrick is, she knows finding a company willing to plunk down millions to sponsor a team isn't easy these days.

"They've been great, but it is a new scenario and we're going to have to figure out and it's a challenge, no doubt," Patrick said. "Finding primary sponsors is a challenge. I feel confident that of all the people to find sponsors, I believe in my agent and my team. And we'll figure it out."

Phil Bienert, the chief marketing officer at GoDaddy, said it was a business decision because data showed the company "we are past brand marketing in the U.S."

Patrick is the only woman to win an IndyCar race and won the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500. She's also led laps in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. She's also in the midst of her best season to date — she has two top-10 finishes and is 16th in the standings.

Although she'd like to be selective with her next sponsor, she knows the current climate may make that tricky. Still, Patrick remains hopeful she'll find a partner that fits her image and branding.

"In this day and age, it's about authenticity and people can see through it pretty quick and easy," Patrick said. "Your personality shines so much better when you're in a program that is something that you enjoy and you're having fun with and is a part of you.

"We've been able to be a little selective. I don't think it's so easy as to just say a company and go get them and have everything you want. We try, no doubt."