Patrick won’t announce intentions until after IRL season
By Hank Kurz Jr.
Associated PressRICHMOND, Va. ó Danica Patrick’s likely free agency at the end of the IndyCar Series season will make her a hot commodity among teams in the open-wheel series and NASCAR.
Any announcement about her next move, however, will have to wait until October.
The IndyCar season finishes Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and she said Tuesday on a conference call that her main focus until then will be on winning as many races as she can and finishing as high in the driver’s point standings as possible.
“To be very open about anything until that point would be foolish,” said Patrick, who is fifth in IRL points. “That’s for after the season, and we’ll worry about it then.”
Patrick became the only woman to ever win a major open-wheel race last season in Japan, and she is in the final year of her three-year contract with Andretti-Green Racing.
She said she and her agents ó IMG ó are still gathering information about what her options will be, including talking with open-wheel teams and possibly NASCAR owners, too.
The move to stock cars has worked out well for Tony Stewart, who won two Sprint Cup Series championships and now contends for another as the owner of a two-car team. The struggles of Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti would also have to weigh into her decision, she said.
“It’s something to take notice of, and I think what it shows is that it is difficult and you do need as much help as possible,” she said, “but as credit to them, they haven’t been driving for the best teams in NASCAR either, so how can you really hold them accountable for not doing extremely well in the very beginning when they just don’t have the resources?
“They don’t drive for Hendrick or Roush or any of the top teams.”
Hornish, a two-time IndyCar Series champion, finished 35th in points last season, his first full year in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series, and is 24th through 15 races this year.
Franchitti struggled last year, and his team was closed in July for lack of sponsorship. He has since returned to the IRL.
Patrick has said in the past that if she were to make the move to NASCAR, she’d want it to be a lateral move, meaning she would move directly into a full-time Sprint Cup ride.
Interest from a top team, she said, could make that more attractive.
“One thing as drivers is we like to challenge ourselves, and if we’ve done something well, can we do the next thing well?” she said. “I think it’s an opportunity to show your ability. NASCAR has so many viewers and so many partners and there’s just lots of options both inside and outside the car. And it looks like fun. … It’s you racing against everyone else really.
“It’s very competitive. It’s kind of like the Indy 500 every weekend, so that’s a lot of fun as a driver to be part of something important and something people want to watch.”