Patrick in no hurry to rush decision on future
SPARTA, Ky. -- Danica Patrick knows it's tempting to hurry up and make a decision about her racing future.
She also knows it probably wouldn't be good for business.
The IndyCar star said Thursday while there'd be a sense of relief if she simply made up her mind about where she'll drive next year -- be it IndyCar, NASCAR or somewhere else -- she's in no rush.
"I think there's that thought that it would be nice to finish things up and move on, on the other hand it's a really big decision what I'm going to do," she said. "I don't want to string it along, but also what should I do? I really don't know."
Patrick is in the final year of her contract at Andretti-Green Racing, and she's made little secret of her interest in NASCAR. She recently toured several NASCAR shops in North Carolina, including the home of points leader Tony Stewart.
"There's a lot of sort of ways to weave the web," she said. "We're just trying to do the best job we can with it. It just takes time."
There appears to be at least one NASCAR team with no interest in Patrick's services despite the considerable buzz -- not to mention marketing dollars -- she would bring.
Chip Ganassi, who owns teams in both IndyCar and NASCAR, met with Patrick recently and said before last week's Cup race at Indianapolis there's likely no room for her in his NASCAR operation.
"If she wanted to do NASCAR on a full-time basis, I would tell her there are better places to go and do it," Ganassi said. "I don't think our team is in a position to do it."
Ganassi told Patrick she should stick to IndyCars, where she's become one of the more consistent drivers on the track and the series' most bankable star off it.
If Patrick decides to remain in IndyCar, there's a chance Ganassi could have a job for her. Ganassi admitted he's "maybe" interested in bringing her in to join Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
Moving to Ganassi would almost certainly fill one of Patrick's criteria for staying at IndyCar: joining a team with the resources to build a car that can win a title.
Still, Patrick took Ganassi's advice with a grain of salt. Though his NASCAR team is starting to flourish with former Formula 1 star Juan Pablo Montoya battling for a spot in the Chase for the championship, Patrick feels Ganassi's heart remains in IndyCar.
"I think Chip has always really been in IndyCar," Patrick said. "He's almost always at the track and I feel like that's been his core all along. I would say I'm not necessarily surprised (that he wants me to stay) given his history and where he's had his success and everything. I definitely respect his opinion."
She certainly has to respect his IndyCar team's performance.
Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti are first and second in points heading into Saturday night's race at Kentucky Speedway, and joining them would fit Patrick's No. 1 criteria for her return to the series: a team with pockets deep enough to win a title.
"I wouldn't want to come back unless I was confident that whatever car I was going to be in -- whether it's the same car or a different car- was going to be a championship contending car," she said.
Patrick knows her Andretti-Green Racing team isn't there yet.
While she's on pace for the best season finish of her career -- she's currently fifth in points despite a series of ho-hum finishes on road courses in recent weeks -- she's only too aware of gap between where she's at and where she wants to go.
"At this point in time, we all know we need to step it up in certain areas," she said. "We know where we're weak and we know we need to get going."
Ganassi isn't the only one hoping Patrick decides to stay put. Her potential departure would deal a serious public relations blow to a circuit still struggling to regain the audience it enjoyed before NASCAR's surge in popularity.
"There is no denying the power of Danica," said IndyCar regular Ed Carpenter. "I certainly hope she stays. There's obviously talk about her being in a third Ganassi car, which the last thing I want is a third Ganassi car on the track. At the same time if she's going to be in the third Ganassi car or NASCAR, I'd much rather still have her in our series. She's good for open-wheel racing."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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