Caution Flags In Danica Patrick's NASCAR future

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 21, 2015 2:33 PM

By Lewis Franck

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - Caution lights may be appearing in Danica Patrick's future NASCAR career.

Patrick is one of NASCAR'S high profile drivers, but her results have not kept pace and her multi-million dollar contract with main sponsor, GoDaddy, will soon be up for renewal.

In 2013, she showed her potential by becoming the first woman to win a pole for the prestigious Daytona 500, but after 82 races in the stock car series, her best finish was sixth at Atlanta last August, and she has only three other top-10s.

Top rides on the circuit require sponsorship of least $15 million a year.

Contract talks with GoDaddy, an Internet domain name service that has underwritten Patrick's career going back to her IndyCar days, were a sore subject with Patrick.

"It's friggin' February, buddy," Patrick told reporters.

"It's sponsor and team. Both are happy, so it's a matter of getting GoDaddy in a place where they're happy and committing to something, and from my understanding the team wants that, too, and it's just a matter of time."

GoDaddy's chief marketing officer, Barb Rechterman, told Reuters in an email: "We are looking at a pretty wide range of options, even beyond 2016...

"But we don't want to get ahead of ourselves."

Danica watchers took note that for the first time since 2007, Patrick did not appear in GoDaddy's Super Bowl TV commercial.

"The most important thing for me is that my sponsor is happy and that GoDaddy is getting what they need from the relationship and there's ROI (return on investment) for them," Patrick said.

Patrick showed improvement in qualifying and raced more aggressively last year but finished 28th overall in the standings, one position lower than 2013.

Tony Stewart, her team's co-owner and a driver himself, expects improvement. "She's just got to build on what she did last year. She kept making gains (even though) it didn't show up at the end of the day.

"But she needs to keep building on the momentum."

Frustration boiled over during Daytona qualifying when she had to overcome two car-damaging incidents with Denny Hamlin and confronted him.

Patrick will start 20th in NASCAR's signature race.

"Obviously for my team and everybody, but mostly for GoDaddy, it made me nervous," she said. "This is the biggest race of the year and they need to be in it."

Patrick may also need to be in contention and perhaps in the winner's circle this season.

(Editing by Steve Keating and Larry Fine)