Is 2009 Danica Patrick's Year in Indy?

Mark RudiCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 09:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Motorola Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda during qualifying for the IRL IndyCar Series 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 9, 2009 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

Four years ago, "Danica Mania" started when Danica Patrick became the first woman to ever lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500.

Patrick ended up leading 19 laps before surrendering the lead to eventual winner Dan Wheldon with seven laps to go. Patrick finished fourth.

But what about 2009? Is this the year Patrick finally completes her trophy collection by adding the Borg-Warner Trophy?

The answer is a big maybe. Patrick has all the power she needs in her Andretti-Green Racing machine and she's currently on track for the best season of her career, but AGR has struggled all month at Indianapolis.

With exception of Tony Kanaan, Patrick, and AGR's other drivers Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh, have been quiet all month.

Kanaan was frustrated with his car, the team turned to its backup car before Pole Day and Patrick said she could have done better than her 10th-place qualification.

Andretti will start eighth, while Mutoh was bumped from the field on Pole Day and had to qualify on day two. He'll start 16th Sunday.

But Patrick can win the 93rd Indianapolis 500; she has the horsepower and team to do it.

Patrick is currently tied for fifth in the IndyCar Series with Ryan Hunter-Reay and has two top five finishes in the first three races of the season, with a best finish of fourth at Long Beach.

She has a great track record in Indianapolis, finishing in the top-10 in three of her four starts in the 500. The only blemish being last year's 22nd place finish after Ryan Briscoe clipped her on pit road.

Patrick also seems a little more relaxed this season. She said before the season opener at St. Petersburg that she wasn't going to get mad anymore, and she's no longer the top story at Indy.

Stories such as Helio Castroneves winning the pole after being acquitted from tax evasion charges, Dario Franchitti, the 2007 winner and IndyCar Champion, returning to the 500 after a season in NASCAR and Alex Lloyd putting Sam Schmidt's entry in the field on Pole Day have all overshadowed Patrick heading into the race.

But she's not being avoided.

She does have a new orange and black paint scheme on the car (Boost Mobile is on the car instead of her traditional sponsor Motorola), and she was just featured in a new milk advertisement.

However, Patrick has had to dodge questions of whether or not she will return to AGR next season. Her contract expires at season's end, but co-owner Michael Andretti hopes to keep Patrick.

According to the Associated Press, Andretti said he has been in discussions with Patrick about an extension.

But don’t expect to see Patrick drinking the goat’s milk in Victory Lane Sunday.

Team Penske has been the class of the field all month with Castroneves and Briscoe taking the first two spots on Pole Day and Will Power's strong performances for Penske all month, as well. Power will start ninth Sunday.

The only team that has been able to keep up with Penske is Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, who will have Franchitti starting third with defending Indy 500 winner and IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon starting fifth.

Target/Chip Ganassi also comes into Sunday winning the last two IndyCar events. Franchitti won at Long Beach, while Dixon was victorious at Kansas.

If Patrick is to win Sunday, she and the whole AGR organization must improve by race time. AGR will need to do a lot of work Friday on Carb Day to catch up to Penske and Ganassi and be race ready.


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