INDIANAPOLIS (August 2006) IndyCar second-year sensation Danica Patrick wont be switching to NASCAR after all. At least not in the near future.
Andretti Green Racing on July 25 announced that it has signed Danica Patrick to drive one of the teams IndyCar Series cars, beginning in 2007.
Photo by Don Ward
Danica Patrick, pictured
here at last years race
at the Kentucky
Speedway, will drive
in the IndyCar Series at
least for another year.
Patricks father and manager, T.J. Patrick, held recent discussions with some NASCAR teams about the possibility of his daughter moving to NASCAR as early as next season. The report created quite a media blitz for several days in July. But in the end, Patrick opted to stay with the open-wheel series.
NASCAR is not out for good, she said at a news conference. Its out for right now.
Patrick said she was just exploring every option. My heart and soul is in IndyCar racing.
Patrick, who was named 2005 IndyCar Series rookie of the year and 2005 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year, becomes the third driver under contract to Andretti Green for the 2007 season. She joins 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan, who won the July 23 event at The Milwaukee Mile, and Marco Andretti, who was named 2006 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year after finishing second in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Andretti Green currently fields four full-time entries in the IndyCar Series and intends to do so again in 2007. The team fielded a fifth car in the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 for team co-owner Michael Andretti, who drove to a third-place finish.
Andretti Green Racing, which won the 2004 and 2005 IndyCar Series championships, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and is the winningest team in IndyCar Series history, also campaigns two cars in the Indy Pro Series and announced last week it will be entering one car in the 2007 American Le Mans Series.
Michael Andretti, Chief Executive Officer, Andretti Green Racing, said, Today is an exciting day for everyone at Andretti Green Racing. Danica has shown great talent during her first two seasons in the IndyCar Series and has impressed Kim (Green), Kevin (Savoree) and myself with her development as a driver. Our focus has been and always will be on winning races and winning championships. We certainly believe Danica will do that. She has made it very clear that one of her goals as a driver is to win the Indiana-polis 500 and we are looking forward to giving her a great opportunity to do that.
Patrick, who became IRLs most recognizable driver by leading part of the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and finishing fourth, has yet to enjoy similar success in 2006, as Rahal-Letterman has endured a frustrating season.
Rahal-Letterman, which enjoyed a power advantage by running Honda engines in 2005, lost that advantage when the entire league shifted to Hondas for 2006.
It was the last team to use a Panoz chassis and struggled to adjust when it finally switched to a Dallara, used by every other team in IRL, after the Indy 500.
And the team lost one of its drivers when Paul Dana was killed during practice before the IRLs season-opening race in Homestead, Fla.
Patrick has helped draw attention to the IndyCar Series since joining the league last year.
This season, Patrick has struggled but still managed to notch six top-10 finishes in 10 races. She ranked ninth in series points heading into the July 30 race at Michigan. It was the final race before Kentucky, where Patrick scored her second pole position of last season.
She fared poorly at Kentucky last year, stalling in the pits on Lap 72, then placing 16th.
This year, the Illinois native is coming off two recent fourth-place finishes in July at Nashville and Milwaukee.