Charlotte, N.C. — Given the right fit, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. believes his girlfriend still wants to be a race car driver.
Danica Patrick will have to scramble to make that happen. And if the opportunity doesn’t present itself, well, she has plenty of other things to fill her time.
Patrick is at a career crossroads and will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing next season. Unless she can secure significant sponsorship to bring with her to another team, she likely won’t be able to find another full-time ride.
“I know that she enjoys racing. She loves the competitiveness of it and has been doing it for a long time, so I think if it was up to her she would try getting in a competitive car and keep going out and competing,” Stenhouse said Wednesday.
But, Patrick has a lot of other business interests to fall back on. She has launched a clothing line, has a book coming out next year and has made a transition into promoting a healthy and fit lifestyle. She’s 35, in a long-term relationship with Stenhouse and has said she’d like to get married and have children.
Patrick had an appearance Wednesday for Aspen Dental in Chicago and told ESPN that she’s in a good place mentally.
“I believe everything happens for a reason, and you never know how good something can be until you try it,” she said. “So whether that’s of course with another team or whether that’s doing something completely different, I’m open.”
Patrick is the only woman racing at NASCAR’s top level, and she’s also the most accomplished. Tony Stewart called her “fearless” in his first comments about her upcoming departure from his race team.
Patrick has driven for Stewart-Haas Racing her entire Cup career. She is currently 28th in the standings, the lowest in her Cup career. Patrick never won a NASCAR race in her six Cup seasons, but is the only woman to win a pole and her seven top-10 finishes are the most of any female Cup driver.
Stewart-Haas Racing hasn’t announced a replacement.