CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the wake of major shifts at Stewart-Haas Racing, Kevin Harvick had positive words for outgoing teammate Danica Patrick on Wednesday, as she prepares to leave the organization at the end of the year.
Harvick spoke to reporters during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff media day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and paid a nod to Patrick’s impact on the sport at-large when asked if he was surprised at the way the situation unfolded with her departure.
“Danica has been a huge part of this sport and turned a lot of people on to racing that might not have otherwise been turned on to racing,” Harvick said. “The impact and the footprint that she has brought to our sport is big.”
However, the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion also admitted that sponsorship is key to any driver’s long-term situation, even one with the fan-following or over-arching impact on the sport that Patrick has.
“On the other side of things, you have the performance side … that at some point measures into everybody’s sponsorship,” he added. “I read the statement from Smithfield yesterday and obviously it sounds like that’s the reason why they’re leaving Richard Petty Motorsports is because while they feel like the program is working for them off the race track, they want to run better on the track.”
“I hope that Danica gets a sponsor because she’s an important part of our sport. … That transition from IndyCar to NASCAR; we’ve seen so many times that people struggle … and she’s had a lot of very good moments.”
Patrick, like her team co-owner Tony Stewart, made the transition from the Verizon IndyCar Series into the NASCAR stock car ranks. She has scored one pole (in the 2013 Daytona 500) and seven top-10 finishes to-date in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Stewart expressed Wednesday morning that even though Patrick’s time at Stewart-Haas is coming to an end, his support for her is as strong as it was when she first entered the NASCAR garage.
“I’ve always been a believer in Danica’s ability as a race car driver and that continues to be the case,” Stewart said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “She’s one of the most fearless people I’ve ever met. She has never backed down from a challenge. In fact, she’s sought out new challenges throughout her career, and that’s what brought her to NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing.”
“Making the jump from IndyCar to NASCAR is not easy, yet she had the courage to do so and put up better numbers than a lot of other drivers who have tried to make that same transition. I’m proud of how hard Danica has worked during her time at Stewart-Haas Racing, and she continues to work hard. My support for her is unwavering. We’re going to end this season strong and make the most of these last 10 races.”
Harvick went on to suggest that perhaps, just like Ford stablemate Joey Logano did when he moved from Joe Gibbs Racing to Team Penske, that all Patrick needs to find her groove in the premier series is a change in scenery.
“You look at Joey … he went from Gibbs to Penske and became an immediate championship contender, just by getting in a different situation. So that’s what you hope for in this particular situation, is that Danica can find a team and a sponsor that fits her situation better than the situation has fit her in the past.”
“It’s not like anybody doesn’t get along (at SHR), but the circumstances haven’t been 100 percent right to get the most out of the performance needed to keep those partners around and do the things that it takes to be competitive.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: email@example.com
Email Race Chaser Online: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews