After months of speculation, Danica Patrick announced during a press conference Friday that she will retire from full-time racing after the Indianapolis 500 next year.
Patrick, 35, held back tears as she made the announcement while fielding questions from reporters at Martinsville Speedway.
“I feel like this is where my life should be headed and sometimes we just get nudged there,” Patrick said. “Sometimes its big nudges and sometimes it’s little. But I definitely was faced with situations at the beginning of the year that I’ve never faced before — I’ve never had sponsorship issues. But it made me think about things. I’m excited about the next phase, trust me.”
Patrick broke down to tears as she mentioned her family and the support they’ve provided her since she moved from the IndyCar Series to NASCAR. Patrick will retire from full-time racing after the running of the Daytona 500 next year and then the Indianapolis 500.
“Nothing that was being presented excited me, then about three weeks ago, I just blurted out, ‘What about Indy? Let’s end it with the Indy 500,'” she told The Associated Press. “This ignites something in me. But I am done after May. Everyone needs to put their mind there. My plan is to be at Indy, and then I’m done.”
Watch a video of her emotional announcement below:
After a successful career in IndyCar, Patrick announced in 2011 that she was going to make the transition to driving stock cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Her first race in a stock car came in 2010 at Daytona International Speedway, where she finished in sixth place. After that, she drove part-time on the NASCAR Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports and was sponsored by GoDaddy.com.
Patrick made her debut in the Monster Energy Cup Series and drove the No. 10 car for Tommy Baldwin Racing. The years that followed offered many ups and downs, but she never notched a win on the series. As of November 17, she won the pole once and has seven top-10 finishes.
Patrick was drove to retirement in all likelihood because of her sponsorship issues, which she mentioned at the press conference. Things started to unravel at the end of the 2015 season, when GoDaddy announced they weren’t going to renew their sponsorship with her car. She subsequently signed a 20-race sponsorship deal with Nature’s Bakery.
But earlier this year in January, Patrick was dropped by Nature’s Bakery, which cited “inadequate social media promotion” and the “endorsement of a rival product.” A few days after the announcement, Stewart-Haas Racing filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit worth $31 million for the 25 races the company was scheduled to sponsor her the rest of the year and in 2018. That meant that Patrick only had 10 race sponsored during the 2017 season. She struggled to find strong opportunities. The two parties reached a settlement in May.
Patrick didn’t say who she’ll drive for at Daytona and Indy, but The Indy Channel reported that she’ll most likely ride for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Patrick is the only woman to lead laps at both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Her highest-ever finish in IndyCar came in 2009, when she placed third.