Most NASCAR fans have been focused on the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and for good reason. He's been the most popular driver in the sport for more than a decade, and he continued the legacy of his legendary father.
As much as Junior is revered across NASCAR, Kevin Harvick told AutoSport that there's another driver who will leave a huge whole in the sport -- Danica Patrick.
"But she's a mega-star. If you look at the things that she's accomplished, who do you compare it to, really?" he said. "There's nobody else lined up to fill those shoes and do the things that she's done. That'll create a huge hole."
Harvick and Patrick were teammates at Stewart-Haas Racing -- he in the No. 4, she in the No. 10 -- so he has an up close look at her impact. It's been well established that Patrick didn't have huge success on the track, but off the track, she's built a marketing machine that's led to a clothing line and other business ventures. And as NASCAR tries to diversify its fan base, there are no other female drivers on the horizon that have her name recognition and following.
NASCAR itself knows how important Patrick was to the sport, and publicly hoped that she would return. Without her, NASCAR has to try to fill a giant marketing void that won't easy to plug.