Danica Patrick said she plans to compete in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2018 before retiring from auto racing.
Patrick, 35, became the highest-finishing female driver in Indy 500 history with her third-place run in 2009, and in 2013 became the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole.
“This will be my last season as a full-time driver,” Patrick said during an emotional press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday. “I’m grateful for all of the opportunities.
“It just came from my heart, and I think it’s going to be awesome.”
Patrick said she is still finalizing teams for both races, but does not anticipate competing after next year’s Indy 500. She began transitioning to stock car racing in 2010 and made the move full time in 2012. However, Patrick has had limited success in the Cup Series and has been unable to secure enough sponsorship to race full time beyond 2017.
Stewart-Haas Racing announced last week that Aric Almirola will replace Patrick in the team’s No. 10 Ford next season.
“I’ve always been a believer in Danica’s ability as a race car driver and that continues to be the case,” SHR co-owner and former driver Tony Stewart said when Patrick announced in September that she would not return to the No. 10. “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.”
Patrick’s best Cup Series finish was sixth at Atlanta in 2014. She is the all-time NASCAR leader among women with 250 races, and is the only female to win an IndyCar event (2008 in Japan).
Patrick has seven top-three finishes in 115 IndyCar starts on her racing resume, along with seven top-10 in NASCAR. She is 27th in the Cup standings this year, and has not finished higher than 24th in five full seasons in the Cup Series.
“I’ve always driven for good teams, and I’m grateful for that,” Patrick told ESPN in September, “which is why if I don’t feel like I’m given the opportunity to be with a team that can do that for me and give me opportunities on a more consistent basis, then I don’t have interest.”