The near future looks very promising for Danica Patrick, thanks to a new multi-year sponsorship agreement announced Tuesday morning.
Patrick and the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet will be sponsored in 2016 and beyond by Reno, Nevada-based Nature's Bakery, the team said during a press conference at the SHR shop in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
As part of the deal, Patrick has signed a multi-year contract extension to remain with SHR. Nature's Bakery will be Patrick's primary sponsor for 28 races, starting in 2016, with all of her current associate sponsors returning as well.
For her first three years with SHR, Patrick's primary sponsor was GoDaddy.com, but in late April, the domain-name provider announced it would not return to NASCAR, citing a desire to focus on global expansion, rather than domestic growth.
Patrick said she was never seriously concerned about finding a new sponsor.
"It's a lot like when I first wanting to drive race cars and I was going from go-karts into cars," said Patrick. "And I just knew in my heart … that I knew something would work out. I just had faith. In my gut, I knew something would work, something would happen and it would all be OK. And I didn't know what that was going to look like, but it did work out like that -- and probably in an even better way than I could have ever imagined. This parallels that experience back in the day, the last time I had to worry about getting a ride."
Team co-owner Tony Stewart said the deal not only gives SHR financial stability, but it ensures that the same four drivers will be back with the team next year.
"Now we can go racing again and just worry about putting four great race cars out there," said Stewart. "It makes it a seamless transition. To have an announcement like this today -- everything in the shop is status quo; tomorrow will be the same as today. It lets us really focus on the direction in which we've been going."
For her NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Patrick has made 105 starts, with six top-10 finishes. Her best finish was a sixth-place run at Atlanta Motor Speedway last year.
Patrick said her goal now is to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup next year.
"Improving every year is important," Patrick said. "Making the Chase is something that I'm going to try to do next year. I think it's pretty hard to do it this year -- I don't even know if it's mathematically possible -- but that's going to be the focus next year. And that's going to be the focus every year.
"The Chase is kind of like being on the lead lap at the end of the race, and you've got a restart and you've got everybody bunched up and you can make the most of it," said Patrick. "And, of course, winning races. I want to win in NASCAR. And I know that this team is going to do what they can to make that possible."
"Nature's Bakery was founded in 2010 by the father-and-son duo of Dave and Sam Marson with a mission of making delicious, convenient, on-the-go snacks that complement health-conscious living and active, everyday lifestyles," Stewart-Haas said in making the announcement. "Their lineage in the food industry can be traced back to the 1960s when Dave's father, Richard Marson, opened a family bakery. Growing up in the bakery, Dave passed his passion and skills along to his son, Sam, whereupon the two combined their knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to form Nature's Bakery."
Asked about how bold a move it was for a comparatively small company to become a full-time NASCAR sponsor, Nature's Bakery founder Dave Marson smiled.
"You know what? You don't get anywhere in life taking a little bit of risk," Marson said. "Our business was built on that foundation when we started. We had an idea, and we have an idea with this where this is going to take us. But we're an extremely profitable company. It's a calculated risk, but in the same sense it is absolutely where we need to be at the right time and the right place for our company."