After being aligned with the Pettys and driver Aric Almirola since 2012, Smithfield Foods Inc. has announced it will leave Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) and join Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as a primary sponsor at the beginning of 2018.
Patrick, in her statement, said it was an "honor" to drive for the team over the past six seasons, citing a Daytona 500 pole and seven top-10 finishes.
Patrick, 35, had one season left on her contract, but confirmed her departure on a Facebook post. Busch, the Daytona 500 victor, does not have a deal with SHR for next season. RPM this year downsized to one Cup auto because of sponsorship reasons, and talks on a contract extension with Almirola stalled when Smithfield began looking at other options.
Which SHR driver Smithfield will sponsor in 2018 was not announced, though the company indicated in a statement that the team may be changing its driver roster.
For 2013, she made the move up to the NASCAR Cup Series full-time with Stewart-Haas Racing.
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"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 said. "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 previous sponsor's Nature's Bakery ended their previous three-year partnership with Patrick after one year following a court dispute where they claimed she had been promoting rival products via social media. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental and food safety and quality programs. "Thanks for the memories", Patrick continued.
Patrick, whose participation in NASCAR has always been polarizing given the attention she receives despite her lack of success, closed the post by writing: "I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future".
SHR announced earlier Tuesday that it had signed Smithfield as a sponsor but did not say who will drive that vehicle.
Patrick has struggled this year, and sits 28th in the standings, which would be the worst of her NASCAR Cup career.
We are extremely disappointed that Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) has chosen to disparage Smithfield - its lead sponsor - after five years and tens of millions of dollars of unwavering financial support, despite years of subpar performance on the track.