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September 29, 2017

Danica Patrick reflects on NASCAR future, past

DOVER, Del. – Danica Patrick’s future in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series remains unsettled as one of the sport’s big-name “free agents” for 2018. But she sure sounded calm and reflective Friday in advance of qualifying for the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Patrick, 35, spoke to reporters about her situation, reiterating that there is no “new” news in terms of where she may race in the Monster Energy Series next year or “if” she will race next year.

“Yeah, I’ve had some [discussion about next season] but not a ton,” Patrick said. “As I’ve said for a good while now, I let business people in my business handle that and have those conversations and figure out what options are out there and I’m going to let them do that.”

The media availability Friday was to debut her No. 10 “Ford Warriors in Pink” car for Sunday’s race and the Oct. 8 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s a cause that has become particularly important to her.

“Cancer impacts all of us,” Patrick said. “I bet there are very few people out there who don’t know someone impacted by breast cancer.

“My friend had a double mastectomy as a preemptive strike because she actually tested positive for the breast-cancer gene. She went through everything and hopefully avoided it, but it still hit close to home.”

This weekend Patrick hopes to not only make a statement for this important cause, but also for herself. Her only top-10 of the season so far –10th place — came here on the Dover concrete mile in June.

Among the topics she addressed Friday was her gratitude for her team owner, retired three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart.

“Pretty much as long as I’ve been in NASCAR he’s been a part of it,” Patrick said. “Even as early as my part-time NASCAR with JR Motorsports and the transition to full time. … The plans were in the works to go to his [Stewart] team for almost the entire time. He’s been a part of it all. Pretty much my entire existence in NASCAR has had to do with him indirectly or directly. I’m grateful.

“He’s an encourager but I wouldn’t say that he’s a driving coach or setting up the cars or anything like that. Everybody has their abilities though. I can’t be taught anything in NASCAR if I’m not here and he’s the reason, a very big reason, that I am here.”

RELATED: Patrick won’t return to SHR in 2018

Asked if she could name her favorite NASCAR moment to date, Patrick smiled widely. Of course, she acknowledged, the historical significance in winning the pole position for the 2013 Daytona 500 makes for a momentous time in her career. But, she conceded, it was actually the true progress she’s made in a stock car that gives her a feeling of achievement — whether it’s obvious to others or not.

“The one that will stand out is qualifying on the pole for the Daytona 500 as the media results of that were something like winning the fourth-biggest race of the year, even though it’s just for qualifying,” Patrick said. “That one will be the biggest one that will stand out.

“But there have been lots of little races along the way that I have felt have been much more difficult and much more representative of the hard work that I’ve put into the sport. But those don’t stand out because those weren’t wins or top fives. But top 10s and things like that, and some runs that I’ve had have meant more to me.

“I definitely think pulling back a little further than individual events is the inspiration that you’ve been told you bring to people, especially to kids, that’s a role that you can’t buy your way into.

“You have to earn that. You just can’t stumble onto that, especially having been around a long time now. That’s probably the most meaningful.”