NASCAR: Is there still hope for a Danica Patrick return in 2018?

NASCAR: Is there still hope for a Danica Patrick return in 2018?

Last month, Danica Patrick announced that she would not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season. Is there any reason to believe she'll be back in the sport at all next year?

Danica Patrick announced last month that she would not be continuing to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in the #10 Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series in the 2018 season following five seasons of driving full-time for the team dating back to 2013. However, she never officially retired from NASCAR altogether. Is there still hope for her to return to the sport in 2018?

Patrick, 35, won't be going back to IndyCar and she won't be going to Formula One next year. Will she be retiring or will she return to the Cup Series, the only NASCAR series in which she is willing to drive, in 2018? Neither one of those two options should be ruled out just yet.

She could definitely retire, as her Cup Series career has not yielded great results for her despite the fact that she has driven for a top-tier team in Stewart-Haas Racing. In 185 career starts, she has not only never won a race, but she has never even finished a race in the top 5. She has finished in the top 10 just seven times, and only one of those top 10 finishes has come in the last 95 races.

But then again, Patrick could definitely end up returning to the Cup Series next year. There are still a few open seats left with some smaller and less prominent teams, so if she wants to keep driving, there appear to be several opportunities for her to do so. Plus, you could make the case that given her extreme popularity among fans, some of the smaller teams in the sport would be foolish not to sign her if given the chance to do so.

As of now, the seat of the #27 Richard Childress Chevrolet will be open, as Paul Menard, the current driver of the car, will be replacing Ryan Blaney in the #21 Wood Brothers Ford next season when Blaney makes the transition over to Team Penske to drive the #12 Ford.

Also, the seat of the #34 Front Row Motorsports Ford will be open, as the team announced that Landon Cassill, the current driver of the car, will not be returning to the team next season. There has also been speculation that David Ragan, the driver of the team's other car, the #38 Ford, may also not be returning to the organization in 2018.

The future surrounding the #77 Toyota that currently belongs to Furniture Row Racing is still unknown as well since the team sold the charter for the car last month, so Patrick could be a candidate to fill that seat depending on which team, if any, runs the car next year.

While this next option is far less likely since the team wants Darrell Wallace Jr. in the car, Patrick could also potentially be a candidate to fill the seat of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford currently driven by Aric Almirola, who looks like he will ultimately end up being Patrick's replacement in the #10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford next season.

If Danica Patrick is to make a return to the Cup Series next season for the first time as a full-time driver not driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, it will likely be with one of the teams mentioned above in one of the cars mentioned above. Then again, retirement is always a possibility.

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Last month, Danica Patrick announced that she would not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season. Is there any reason to believe she'll be back in the sport at all next year? Danica Patrick announced last month that she would not be continuing to drive for Stewa...
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