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Danica is way down road to staying with IndyCar

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Danica Patrick sounds as if she has
already made a decision on her racing future, even if she's not
quite ready to announce it.

Despite recent speculation that she would head to NASCAR after
her contract with the Rahal-Letterman IndyCar Series team is up at
the end of the season, Patrick said she's leaning toward staying in
the IndyCar Series and is "far down the line" toward getting a
deal done with for next season.

Which team? She isn't saying.

"That would just be giving it all away, wouldn't it?" said
Patrick, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

She was in Wisconsin for Sunday's ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt 225
at the Milwaukee Mile.

Patrick said if she did sign a new deal, any announcement would
be up to the team she signed with. Such an announcement could be
coming soon.

"Negotiations are far down the line, for sure," Patrick said.

Patrick is coming off a season-best, fourth-place finish at
Nashville last Sunday, but she needed a few good breaks to do so.
The Rahal team generally hasn't been competitive this season.

"We are not the fastest car," Patrick said. "Nobody's going
to disagree with me on that one. So we have to catch a couple
breaks. And we did, finally."

Patrick didn't rule out the possibility that she would look
to another team for a better chance to win.

"I need to be the best driver I can," Patrick said. "I need
to leave nothing to the [imagination] to what I could have done
more."

Asked about loyalty to team owner Bobby Rahal, who gave Patrick
her first shot at big-time racing, Patrick said, "I would hope
that over the course of the last year and a half, and even before
that, I would hope that I have brought things to him, too. I would
hope that I have helped him in some way."

Patrick's father, T.J., caused a stir two weeks ago when he
showed up at the Nextel Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway and told a
Chicago Tribune reporter that Patrick was interested in switching
to NASCAR.

But Patrick said she was just exploring every option and was
always leaning toward staying in IndyCar.

"I have been leaning that direction, even since my parents went
to Chicago and before that," Patrick said. "That's no different.
For me, it was a matter of looking at all the options. And even
though I wasn't there looking, my parents are just as good as me
going there."

Patrick's possible next destination could be Andretti-Green
Racing.

Asked in an ESPN interview last week what IRL team other than
Rahal Letterman could meet or exceed her expectations to field a
competitive car, Patrick said Penske and Ganassi are two strong
teams.

"Then I think there's a lot of strength in AGR," she said,
referring to Andretti-Green. "They did very well the last couple
years. They have lots of talent there. There are a lot of options
out there."

Team owner Michael Andretti couldn't immediately be located at
the track on Thursday, but said last weekend that he would be
interested in hiring Patrick.

"Would I be interested? Yeah, but I don't know what her plans
are," Andretti said. "I'm just hearing all the rumors that she's
available and stuff. I didn't know that Rahal didn't have her tied
up," Andretti said. "We'll see."

A more competitive IndyCar ride might be a palatable alternative
to NASCAR for Patrick, who said she likes the intense fan following
in NASCAR but doesn't necessarily like the intense schedule that
comes along with it.

The Nextel Cup Series races 38 times a year -- 36 points races
and two exhibitions -- and IndyCar only has 14 races.

"From the outside looking in, it looks like there is not time
to go to the bathroom," Patrick said.

And Patrick said she still has unfinished business in IndyCars --
despite her unprecedented success, after all, she still hasn't won
an IndyCar race.

"I want to win in IndyCar. I want to win the Indy 500. I want
to do well," she said. "I want to help the series. I'm not done
yet. And so if there's a team in this series that will give me that
opportunity, this is where I'll be."