Danica Patrick: Could This Be Her Last Indianapolis 500 As She Eyes NASCAR?
This comes after running a partial season with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. Earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, she finished fourth after playing some fuel strategy and running just outside the top 10 all day. It was stated last year that with both her Nationwide Series and the IndyCar Series contract being up, this would be a big deciding year for her.
"I suppose anything is possible," she said during Indianapolis 500 weekend. "But I know for me, I haven't made any of those decisions yet."
With how her foray has gone in NASCAR to date, it'd be no surprised if she chose to go NASCAR racing as she has shown improvement and looks to be headed towards the top.
The 29-year-old has 102 starts in the IndyCar Series and in those starts, she has one win, 19 top fives and 55 top 10s. The win came at Japan after playing fuel strategy. Currently in the IndyCar Series, she sits 15th in points after finishing seventh at Long Beach.
In contrast, on the NASCAR side, she started off not so well, before improving as she began running in the top 20, then top 15 and now possibly heading towards the top 10.
"It's better than last year," she said during her media session at Indianapolis last week. "I think last year, I mean, everything from sort of the first lap I turned in an IndyCar to practice to the races, it was not great. This year I've made a lot of passes in the race, I've been fast in the race, I've even been relatively fast in practice. I'm just not great at qualifying. I get out there, think I'm doing a much better job. I should be much faster, and I'm not."
"I don't know what it is, but I have to figure it out. It's obviously quite the road block on the road courses. I mean, passing five cars on a road course is a damn good day. That's not going to move you very far when you start 20th. I have to figure that out."
"Other than that, I think it's been a good year. Also the NASCAR stuff I've done has been good, too. Having a fourth at Vegas was great, leading at Daytona in the Nationwide race. So far it's been a good year."
The pieces are also there for Patrick in the future on the NASCAR side with her partnership with Go Daddy. Go Daddy sponsors Mark Martin at Hendrick Motorsports (HMS), currently on the Sprint Cup Series side. Once Patrick wants to move up to the Cup Series, she has a natural fit already set in with one of the biggest teams, along with the time at JR Motorsports. JR Motorsports has a close Hendrick Motorsports connection as they use Hendrick chassis and motors, while co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives for Rick Hendrick in the Sprint Cup Series.
Also, there'd be no question if Hendrick Motorsports didn't have the room for her as they could point her towards a third-car at Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart-Haas also has a Hendrick connection as they too use engines and chassis from HMS.
Her success on the NASCAR side has been limited, but she has impressed crew chief Tony Eury Jr.
“I mean, we’ve been really consistent—the finishes haven’t shown it,” Eury Jr. said following her top five at Las Vegas during the post-race show on ESPN. “It’s really easy for her to run in the top 15. If we can get everything right, we can run in the top 10 with this girl. Luckily we got luck with fuel mileage and got a top five out of this.”
Whatever Danica decides, there is only one thing for certain—there will be a lot of people watching.
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