Sponsorship Changes At Stewart-Haas Racing Will See Danica Driving To New Crew
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 at 10:54AM
NYSportsJournalism.com in Auto Racing, Danica Patrick, Nascar, Smithfield Food, Stewart-Haas Racing, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

September 12, 2017: Claiming that the move would "improve our competitiveness on the track," Smithfield Foods has signed a multi-year deal to become a primary team sponsor for Stewart-Haas Racing beginning with the 2018 racing season.

Smithfield, whose 13 "core" brands, include Armour, Nathan’s, John Morrell and Healthy Ones, has been a primary sponsor with Richard Petty Motorsports for six years.

The move became a catalyst in shake-ups on both teams, with Danica Patrick saying she would leave Stewart-Haas Racing after the current season and Richard Petty Motorsports saying that driver Aric Almirola would not return.

Financial terms of the deal were not released.

Smithfield Foods said that details of the agreement, including the driver to be added to SHR’s Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series lineup in 2018, would be provided at a later date.

"We’re very proud to have Smithfield Foods join the Stewart-Haas Racing family," Brett Frood, president for Stewart-Haas Racing, said in a statement. "Smithfield has activated heavily and successfully within the sport, and we’re honored to be a part of the brand’s forward initiatives and strategy.

"Although we’re not ready to announce the full details of the program, we look forward to this new endeavor while remaining focused on the upcoming playoffs and putting forth the best effort possible to win more races and contend for another championship," said Frood.

Patrick, one of the most high-profile drivers in the sport, shared the news of her departure on her Facebook page.

"It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons," wrote Patrick. "Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way.

"My time driving for them, however, has come to an end due to a new sponsorship arrangement in 2018. 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. Our amazing partners, such as Aspen Dental and Code 3, stepped up in a big way on short notice this year and I am incredibly grateful," wrote Patrick.

Following Smithfield Foods’ decision, Richard Petty released his own statement on the situation.

"We have had numerous discussions with Smithfield Foods regarding the extension of our relationship dating as far back as February," said Petty. "Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us, and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship.

"My support for Danica is unwavering. We’re going to end this season strong and make the most of these last ten races."

"I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like STP on a handshake. I’m sad to see this is where we are now. This decision is very unexpected, and we are extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction," said Petty.

According to Petty, "Losing a sponsor of this magnitude in September is a significant set-back to Richard Petty Motorsports, but Andy (Murstein) and I are committed to moving forward with the No. 43 team. We have a lot of great partners who have expressed their continued support, and our fans will rally around the No. 43. We’ve been around since 1949, and we’ll be around a lot longer."

Tony Stewart was supportive of Patrick and her decision via his own statement on Facebook.

"I’ve always been a believer in Danica’s ability as a racecar driver and that continues to be the case," wrote Stewart. “She’s one of the most fearless people I’ve ever met. She has never backed down from a challenge. In fact, she’s sought out new challenges throughout her career, and that’s what brought her to Nascar and Stewart-Haas Racing.

"Making the jump from IndyCar to Nascar is not easy, yet she had the courage to do so and put up better numbers than a lot of other drivers who have tried to make that same transition. I’m proud of how hard Danica has worked during her time at Stewart-Haas Racing, and she continues to work hard."

According to Stewart, "My support for Danica is unwavering. We’re going to end this season strong and make the most of these last ten races."

Despite the change, Patrick seemed was positive about her future.

"I wish SHR the best of luck with their new sponsorship and driver," Patrick wrote on her Facebook page. "Thanks for the memories. Right now, my focus is on the remainder of the 2017 season and finishing the year strong. I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future."

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