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Kevin Harvick: Danica Patrick a ‘huge part of this sport’

CHARLOTTE — Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart called her “fearless” and Kevin Harvick said she is “a huge part of this sport” one day after Danica Patrick announced she would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Patrick, 35, announced her impending departure Tuesday but gave no indication of her future. Wrapping up her fifth full season as driver of the No. 10 entry for SHR, she has seven top-10 finishes in 180 career starts. She is the only female competitor to start on the pole for the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s season-opening and most prestigious event.

“I’ve always been a believer in Danica’s ability as a race car driver and that continues to be the case,” Stewart said via a Facebook posting Wednesday morning. “She’s one of the most fearless people I’ve ever met. She has never backed down from a challenge. … My support for Danica is unwavering.” | Read more from Stewart here

Harvick joined SHR in 2014, a year after Patrick came on board, and won the Monster Energy Series title. During media day for this season’s 10-race playoffs, Harvick said his teammate has “turned a lot of people on to racing that might not have otherwise been turned onto racing. The impact and the footprint that she has brought to our sport is big.

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“On the other side of that you have the performance side of things that at some point measures into everybody’s sponsorship,” he said. “I hope that Danica gets a sponsor because she’s an important part of our sport. … She’s had a lot of very good moments; look at Joey Logano, he went from Joe Gibbs Racing to (Team) Penske and became an immediate championship contender just by getting in a different situation.

“That’s what you hope for in this situation, that Danica can find a team and a sponsor that fits her situation better than the situation that has been in the past.”