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Tony Stewart calls Danica Patrick ‘fearless’ despite team split

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 9/13/2017 ANDY CLAYTON

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Danica Patrick might not have a ride with Stewart-Haas Racing, but she can count on a glowing letter of recommendation from team owner Tony Stewart.

After Patrick - the only female driver at NASCAR's top level - announced on Facebook Tuesday that her time with Stewart-Haas "had come to an end," Stewart raced to get his own statement posted.

"I've always been a believer in Danica's ability as a racecar driver and that continues to be the case," Stewart wrote on his Facebook page. "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."

The reason for Patrick leaving Stewart-Haas is due to a new sponsorship arrangement for the team.

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

Stewart's team has struggled with sponsorship issues for three of its four cars.

"Making the jump from INDYCAR to NASCAR is not easy," Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champ with 49 race wins on his resume, added, "yet she had the courage to do so and put up better numbers than a lot of other drivers who have tried to make the same transition."

Patrick, 35, currently sits 28th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, the lowest in her cup career.

"I'm proud of how hard Danica has worked during her time at Stewart-Haas Racing, and she continues to work hard.

"My support for Danica is unwavering. We're going to end this season strong and make the most of these last 10 races."

Patrick - who has seven Top-10 finishes in 180 career starts in NASCAR - had been under contract with Stewart's team through 2018. 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.

"I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me," Patrick wrote in concluding her statement, "and feel confident about my future."

With The Associated Press

Related slideshow: Danica through the years (Provided by photo services)

Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Warrior by Danica Patrick/ Ford, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 8, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. Danica Patrick through the years

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