Nascar

Sponsor questions for Danica Patrick as NASCAR season nears

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Danica Patrick wore an all-white Tax Act uniform to NASCAR's preseason media event Tuesday, raising eyebrows about her sponsorship situation with the season just a month away.

Patrick and Stewart-Haas Racing last year signed a deal with Nature's Bakery as Patrick's primary sponsor. The company founded in 2010 by the father-and-son duo of Dave and Sam Marson was new to NASCAR last season and scheduled to sponsor more than 20 races this year.

SHR told The Associated Press that conversations with Nature's Bakery are ongoing.

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''Nature's Bakery and Stewart-Haas Racing are in discussions about how the sponsorship might look in 2017,'' the team said. ''Both sides have options, and it's a matter of determining what is best for both parties.''

SHR stressed it is moving forward with a full season for Patrick and its other three entries.

The addition of Nature's Bakery to Patrick's brand was a natural fit for a driver who promotes a healthy lifestyle. She has started a fitness program that will be turned into a book and is launching an active-wear clothing line. She constantly updates her social media channels with recipes and workouts and encourages her fans to be healthy.

She insisted Tuesday all her brand work away from the race track has not been to position herself for a lifestyle-focused career after driving.

''The things that I have done outside of racing are happening because of racing, and are really just hobbies,'' she said. ''I've wanted a clothing line for 10 years. The book with recipes, I mean, I cook like crazy. I cook all the time. Anybody that follows me knows that I do that, and I always have, so a lot of this stuff is really just easy and second nature.

''It's more about putting pen to paper on what exactly I am doing, whether it be a workout or a recipe or what kind of styles I like, and sending those pictures to the designers. That's more what it's about, just following through on what do I do with these ideas and things that I do and making some of my hobbies turn into something bigger.''

Patrick has pushed the Nature's Bakery brand and often posted photos of herself eating gluten-free fig bars as snacks. The Nevada-based food brand replaced Patrick's longtime sponsor, GoDaddy, and used its signature tagline, ''Energy for Life's Great Journeys,'' on Patrick's car.

Patrick has 154 starts at NASCAR's top level, with six career top-10 finishes. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, and finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She led a career-high 30 laps last year.

She's twice led laps in the Indianapolis 500, finished a career-best third in that race in 2011, and won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan.

Nature's Bakery is one of the smallest primary sponsors in NASCAR, with fewer than 500 employees in the United States. The company's products are sold in all 50 states and 22 countries.

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