By Jared Turner
Last week’s revelation that Danica Patrick won’t return next season as driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is a troubling one. With the sport’s 14-time most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., set to retire at the end of 2017, NASCAR could really use Patrick — arguably the sport’s second most marketable driver — to help offset the blow that will inevitably come with Junior’s departure. But Patrick, just five years into her Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, appears to be headed for the sidelines instead of waiting in the wings to fill the void left by Junior. This is bad news for just about everyone, and it certainly does nothing to help NASCAR’s quest to attract more female fans. It’s also a sad testament to the reality that in this climate, sponsors need their drivers to have more than an attractive face and ability to connect with mass audiences; sponsors expect their drivers to run up front and contend for wins, something that Patrick — despite all the good she brings — has never been able to do.
Richard Petty And Smithfield Are Both Wrong
It’s a real shame that the recent war of words between Richard Petty and departing Richard Petty Motorsports primary sponsor Smithfield Foods had to happen. Regardless of which side one takes in this dispute, Petty — the team’s co-owner and NASCAR’s all-time wins leader — should have shown more gratitude for Smithfield’s multimillion dollar commitment over the past five years to the organization that bears his name. Smithfield, meanwhile, should not have thrown Petty under the bus in its statement disputing Petty’s claim that the sponsor reneged on a handshake deal to remain the primary backer of RPM’s No. 43 Ford in 2018. Let’s hope that both sides learn from this difficult situation and in the future handle business matters in a more professional fashion.
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