Matt Kenseth says he's not a candidate to replace Danica Patrick

Matt Kenseth says he's not a candidate to replace Danica Patrick

That's the question Danica Patrick faces now that she knows for certain that she will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next season.

The announcement by Patrick, one of NASCAR'S most high-profile drivers, came shortly after Smithfield Foods said it would leave Richard Petty Motorsports to become a primary sponsor at Stewart-Haas next year.

In addition to Harvick, the team co-owned by Stewart and Gene Haas also fields cars for Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, and Clint Bowyer, who replaced the retiring Stewart this season.

Patrick, 35, is still searching for her first top-five finish after five seasons behind the wheel of the No.10 Ford.

For 2013, she made the move up to the NASCAR Cup Series full-time with Stewart-Haas Racing.

"I didn't say that either", Kenseth said. "I don't drive because I love the thrill of getting sideways". Her statement today confirmed her reasons for her split from the Stewart-Haas Racing team, but there were no indications of any 2018 plans as of yet; perhaps signaling a potential end to, at least, her stock vehicle racing career. She also finished third in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Sure, she could win a race on strategy and get in the playoffs, but more than likely, it will be more of the same with maybe a slight improvement. Her best finish in a NASCAR race was when she placed sixth in Atlanta in 2014.

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Arguing Patrick had success on the track with those numbers would be a stretch.

In a statement, Tony Stewart said he still believes in Patrick's ability. Soon to be 26, Julia Landauer (a Stanford grad) might be too old to get a good shot after her good-but-not-great performances on the NASCAR regional level.

Patrick spent part of her Wednesday doing the business work of NASCAR, driving go-karts in downtown Chicago for Aspen Dental to encourage people to overcome emotional barriers to going to the dentist. She is still the only woman to be on the pole for any of the 2,524 Cup races.

Patrick says she has no interest in returning to IndyCar, where she had her greatest career successes, but has learned to never say never.

"I'm good", Patrick said. When she qualified on the second row for the 2008 Indy 500, four years into her IndyCar career, the 4.6 was better than it's been in the nine years since - including for the 100th running (3.9) and for Fernando Alonso-mania (3.4). She said Wednesday that she found out earlier this summer that SHR would not field a vehicle for her in 2018 if it could not find sponsorship.

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