Danica Patrick out at Stewart-Haas Racing

Truex enters the playoffs with a commanding 20-point lead over No. 2 ranked Kyle

Truex enters the playoffs with a commanding 20-point lead over No. 2 ranked Kyle

There had been speculation regarding Danica Patrick's future at Stewart-Haas Racing, but finally there was some clarity on Tuesday.

The pioneering female driver announced Tuesday that she would not drive with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way. Further complicating her pursuit of a ride is the fact that top-tier teams just don't have an opening and there are much more successful drivers out there available for hire. The new driver who will be added to SHR's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lineup in 2018 will be named at a later date. So, you couldn't reasonably argue she hasn't had the equipment to excel.

In 180 races, Patrick has led 64 laps and has 71 lead-lap finishes.

Patrick had an appearance Wednesday for Aspen Dental in Chicago and told ESPN.com that she's in a good place mentally. Her highest finishing positions in the points standings were a pair of 24th-place efforts in 2015 and 2016.

At the heart of it, a sponsor wants return on investment.

Of her seven top 10s, Patrick's best result was sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2014. But Nature's Bakery ended its three-year sponsorship deal of Patrick's No. 10 Ford after just one season, leaving the team scrambling for sponsorship.

"It takes people", Patrick said.

She has launched a clothing line, has a book coming out next year and has made a transition into promoting a healthy and fit lifestyle. She knows what the public discourse is on her career.

She also would miss the instant gratification she gets when young girls' eyes light up as she meets them weekly at the race track.

If this is the end of Patrick's time in NASCAR, other competitors recognize her contributions.

She'd likely have to be OK with taking a pretty steep pay cut, and she'd have to find a team where she believes she could be competitive. What's more, it might be an ideal time for her to get back in the game.

She doesn't really worry about anyone who says she is done as a NASCAR driver. There's no point in coming back if she's going to be an also-ran, and it seems at this point, numerous best seats in the series are taken.

"It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons", Patrick said.

She has not addressed the announcement on other social media outlets.

Smithfield's sponsorship of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) race team will expire at the end of this year.

Further details of Smithfield's agreement with SHR will be provided at a later date. It indicated that there would be a new driver on the lineup.

In the past few months, Patrick has hinted at the possibility of not racing full-time next year. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne are notable free agents who could replace Busch or Patrick.

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