Danica Patrick announced a new three-year racing deal on Tuesday, although it wasn’t exactly what NASCAR fans were hoping for. Patrick, who will be sporting GoDaddy as her sponsor this year, revealed that she’s come to an agreement with Andretti Autosports to continue her career in the IndyCar Series.
There’s been plenty of speculation over the past couple of years that Patrick, the most popular driver in open-wheel racing and the only woman to lead at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, would eventually follow in the footsteps of Indy 500 winners Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti in joining the ranks of NASCAR.
Her new deal won’t prevent her from making the jump, but it does ensure that Indy racing fans will continue to see the most popular driver in the open-wheel series until at least 2012.
During her press conference, the inevitable NASCAR question arose, and Patrick addressed them with full honesty:
“As I said, I’ve made no mystery that I’m curious about NASCAR and I would like to do it,” said the 27-year-old Patrick. “As a driver, if I had the chance to be able to run in both series and try it and challenge myself, I would like to do that.”
She went on to say that she had been in negotiations since the summer with JR Motorsports, a NASCAR team co-owned by Dale Earnhart Jr. and Rick Hendrick. The talks have been handled by Kelly Earnhart, daughter of former Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner Dale Earnhart Sr.
When internet pictures of Patrick wearing a GoDaddy drivers suit with Nationwide Series and JR Motorsports logos on it surfaced, many assumed that a deal had already been struck, but Patrick refuted that on Tuesday. That, however, doesn’t mean she won’t be dabbling in stock cars between IndyCar starts.
“I think we still have time,” Patrick said when asked if a contract would be signed. “February is when they start…even if things go until the last minute, there’s still a little bit of time left.”
It’s expected that if the Indianapolis sports icon does indeed sign with JR Motorsports, she would begin running a few select Nationwide Series races this season, with an eye on participating in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in subsequent years. Although making the transition to stock cars will be a time consuming endeavor, both Patrick and team owner Michael Andretti reiterated that the IndyCar series is still her primary responsibility. Said Andretti;
“The goal will be we’ll have to work the programs to make sure that the IndyCar is still her main focus because still the main goal is to win Indianapolis and the championship with Danica.”
The IndyCar season opens on March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and ends on October 2 at Homestead, Florida.