HOMESTEAD, Fla. — With tears in her eyes, Danica Patrick emotionally confirmed to media on Friday afternoon she would be stepping away from full-time racing competition following Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“My sister told me I was supposed to get emotional,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes, as her sister and parents watched from the back of the room. “I said I wouldn’t.”
After a long pause, she continued, “But I’m grateful for all the opportunities.”
Dressed in a white blouse and black jeans, the 35-year-old Patrick declared her intentions to transition after a historical six-year full-time career in NASCAR preceded by a headline-making seven-year full-time stint racing in the IndyCar series.
Before officially retiring, Patrick will race in the 2018 Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 — two races innately and overwhelmingly crucial to her career path. Although she doesn’t have the deals completely finalized for the two fast farewells she is dubbing the “Danica Double,” Patrick said she hopes to announce something in the coming weeks. She is confident of putting together a deal or deals to give her racing contributions the proper exclamation point.
The 2013 Daytona 500 pole winner and record-setting Indianapolis 500 competitor is the first woman to compete full-time in NASCAR’s highest level.
Interestingly, she has the same number of laps led (64) and top-10 finishes (seven) in both her XFINITY career (61 starts) and her Cup career (189 starts).
In addition to her NASCAR accomplishments Patrick is the only woman to win an IndyCar race (2008 in Japan) and boasts the top finish ever for a woman in the Indy 500 (third place, 2009). She had top-10 finishes in six of her seven Indy 500 starts.
And Patrick is the only woman to lead laps in both the Daytona 500 (seven laps) and Indy 500 (29 laps), an event she last entered in 2011.
She’s currently ranked 27th in the points standings with one top 10 this year (10th at Dover).
Speaking to a smaller group of reporters after her initial announcement, Patrick joked about containing her emotions, revealing, “I’m an emotional person, shockingly, I know.
“It’s one thing to say to one person, or out loud to your family, another to deliver to the masses,’’ Patrick said. “It’s not like this is a conclusion I just arrived at. I started thinking about all the situations that could come my way in January. And there was a moment in the middle of the year that I was like, is the team just going to shut me down? Maybe. I had to pretty quickly face the music of, ‘what if this is the end?’ “
Patrick said she was open to doing some TV work, but that there was nothing imminent or specific to that yet. Even beyond the two races closing out her career, she has a busy slate that includes a book tour for her “Pretty Intense: The 90-Day Mind, Body and Food Plan that will absolutely Change Your Life” book.
And she will continue to attend Monster Energy Series races in support of her longtime boyfriend, Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stewart-Haas announced last week that Aric Almirola will replace Patrick in the team’s No. 10 Ford.
As for Patrick joining her first formal NASCAR “boss” Dale Earnhardt Jr. and former Cup champion Matt Kenseth in stepping away from full-time work at Sunday’s checkered flag?
“The show goes on as they say,’’ Patrick said smiling, noting the excitement she feels for her final racing chapter.
“I’m really nervous. But I’m really excited.”