Early Tuesday morning, Smithfield Foods made it official that the longtime Richard Petty Motorsports sponsor would swap teams and work with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. The news forced changes at Stewart-Haas, which has struggled with sponsorship for three of its four cars, including the No. 10 driven by Patrick.
Stewart-Haas Racing hasn't yet announced a replacement driver.
"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", she wrote. The company felt Patrick had endorsed competing products on her social media channels while Stewart-Haas claimed Nature's Bakery wasn't making its payments on time.
SHR found it hard to get sponsors after GoDaddy ended its team sponsorship in 2015. Details of the agreement, including the driver who will be added to SHR's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lineup in 2018, will be provided at a later date.
That means Smithfield could end up on the No. 10 Ford, now driven by Patrick. Busch, the Daytona 500 victor, does not have a deal with SHR for next season. Almirola is also available, but whether he and Smithfield could both leave RPM and join SHR in a package deal depends on the language in Smithfield's contract with RPM. She is now 28 in points with 10 races remaining.
SHR announced earlier Tuesday that it had signed Smithfield as a sponsor but did not say who will drive that auto.
In 180 career races, 170 of which with the top-tier Stewart-Haas Racing team, she has never finished in the top 5 and has only finished in the top 10 once, with just one of those top 10 finishes coming in the last 90 races. The #10 driver cited sponsorship arrangements as the reason for the departure and did not confirm any plans for next year as of yet. It caused him to miss seven races, and the team is now 25th in the standings. But her status as a trailblazer is equally undeniable, as she was the first female NASCAR driver ever to win a pole or lead a race under green.
"We have had numerous discussions with Smithfield Foods regarding the extension of our relationship dating as far back as February".
The sponsorship arrangement that Patrick was eluding to is the deal between Stewart-Haas Racing and Smithfield Foods, who announced today that they would be switching to SHR having previously sponsored the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports vehicle of Aric Almirola since 2012.
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