Don't get your hopes up for a surprise visit to the Indy 500 by Danica Patrick in 2012, but a return to one of racing's biggest stages in the future would be a great move for the sport's most well-known icon.
Patrick has gained even more fame in the sport, as she's in her first year as a full-time NASCAR participant. But perhaps the worst consequence of her decision to leave IndyCar is missing the Indy 500, an event that some people look at as the mecca of the sport.
It doesn't seem likely that Patrick will make a return, however, given her most recent comments:
I was ready to leave IndyCar. I wanted to be here.
When you are not missing something, longing for something, you don't really think about it that much. It's like that girlfriend you don't want to have anymore. You don't think about her anymore. Or ex-husband. You just don't.
Danica's looking at it the wrong way.
She did great things in her IndyCar career, and there's no doubt that she would be welcomed back to the sport. Even if it were just for one race.
No one is expecting Patrick to bail out on her NASCAR life, either. The Indy 500 falls in the middle of the Nationwide Series schedule, and she's racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. And while Patrick has fond memories of the Indy 500, she's focused on the Charlotte race:
Indy, I have lots of great memories from there, and probably the part of me that doesn't feel quite as longing for it is that there is still a chance that I could do it again. It's not gone. I'm excited about this weekend.
Patrick's memories of Indy may be great, but many of them must also hurt. She was close to victory there in 2009, but she ended up finishing third. And in 2011, she gained the lead and was headed to her first Indy 500 win before running out of gas and finishing 10th.
It was hard to find many who criticized Patrick's decision to come to NASCAR, considering it's far and wide the most prominent form of racing in today's world. And even though her career in the new gig hasn't gotten off to as smooth of a start as she's hoped, it's still early in her NASCAR career.
We all understand you're trying to make it in NASCAR, Danica. They're different sports, and no one is asking you to make an epic IndyCar comeback.
My guess is that she becomes a better NASCAR driver and eventually doesn't feel the need to exert every single day into NASCAR. And once she does, that passion for winning the Indy 500 will come back, and she'll walk through that door.
It would be great for racing, it'd be great for IndyCar and it would be great for her status as the sport's icon. Make it happen, Danica.
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