Danica Patrick leaving Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the year

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On Tuesday afternoon it was announced Danica Patrick will not continue to drive for Stewart Haas Racing in 2018.

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. I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like STP on a handshake. In seven years in IndyCar, Patrick had seven top-three finishes in 115 starts.

"Sponsorship plays a vital role in our sport, and I have been very fortunate over the course of my career, but this year threw us for a curve", Patrick wrote. "Our incredible partners, such as Aspen Dental and Code 3, stepped up in a big way on short notice this year and I am incredibly grateful". Her disappointing results don't bode well for finding another sponsor, but Patrick seems to be hopeful about the future.

This story will be updated as more information is available.

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"I wish SHR the best of luck with their new sponsorship and driver. I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future".

Stewart Haas officials announced earlier Tuesday that Smithfield Foods, now a sponsor for Richard Petty Motorsports, would move to SHR for 2018 and that a driver change would follow.

The news is not necessarily surprising as there had been speculation that Patrick could not fulfill sponsorships heading into next year. He also earned a playoff berth that season and finished a career-best 16th in the standings. In addition to Patrick, Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch's contract with the team is up at the end of the season.

She's the only woman to win a top-flight NASCAR pole position, and while some in NASCAR have grumbled that the attention she garnered on the circuit outweighed her achievements at least one fellow-driver recognised her on Tuesday as a ground-breaker. The following season is when she got a full-time ride in the Cup Series driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in the #10 Chevrolet, which is now the #10 Ford. In her 110-race career so far, Danica has only managed to finish in the top ten on seven occasions; with a best finish of sixth at Atlanta in 2014. She competed part time in the Xfinity Series in 2010 and 2011 while also competing full time in IndyCar before going full time in NASCAR racing with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series in 2012. 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 auto racing career.