Danica Patrick’s hopes of closing out her racing career with the 2018 Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 races — the “Danica Double” – have hit a major dead end. But there’s still a chance, especially at Indianapolis, for her to find rides.
The president of Chip Ganassi Racing said Thursday night the organization is no longer holding discussions with Patrick about having her drive one of its cars in the races. Ganassi is one of two teams that fields cars in both the NASCAR Cup Series and Verizon IndyCar circuits, and thus could offer Patrick a ride in the most prestigious race on each circuit.
“We’re not talking any longer,’’ Lauletta said. “I think it would have made sense, and we did have conversations if she wanted to run in both races, the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500, and ultimately we couldn’t come to a solution that worked for both of us.”
Team Penske, the other racing organization that runs cars in both NASCAR’s and the open-wheel IndyCar’s top circuits, ruled out running an extra car for Patrick at the Indy 500 not long after she confirmed her retirement in November.
Patrick competed on both circuits during her racing career. She was the first woman to win an IndyCar race, the 2008 Japan 300, and finished third in the 2009 Indy 500. She was open-wheel circuit’s most popular driver for several years. With NASCAR, Patrick became the first woman to take a Cup Series pole, for the 2013 Daytona 500.
According to USA TODAY, both Patrick and Ganassi confirmed in November that talks had taken place about a “Danica Double.”
While those talks have ended, Lauletta said he still thinks Danica will find a ride for the May 27 Indy 500.
“... She knows her way around,” Lauletta said. “There are teams that run just the Indianapolis 500 because of the size of the event itself and the history of it. I think that they’ll be able to put something together and certainly wish them luck.’’
A typical Indy 500 television audience includes sports fans who wouldn’t normally watch an IndyCar race, or even any other motorsports event.
The audience, 5.5 million viewers in 2017, and the payout — reportedly $2.5 million for the winner last year with a total purse topping $13.2 million – gives part-time drivers, such as Patrick, a chance to find an organization that’s willing to invest the money needed for a single race.
The Daytona 500 has an even larger total purse – reportedly $18 million total in 2015, the last season NASCAR released money totals for each race. But with that race just a little more than a month away – practices begin Feb. 10 — the window is closing.
It’s been nearly two months since Patrick announced Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Raceway that the 2018 Daytona 500 and Indy 500 would close out her racing career and the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season would be her last as a full-time driver. Now the Ford Ecoboost 400 two days later may end up being the final race of her career.
▪ Early this week, Patrick said that finding a ride for either race was taking longer than anticpated. Motorsport.com’s Tom Errington also indicated that her options for Daytona appear limited, with “leading” NASCAR Cup teams ruling out offering her cars for the 500.
“With the teams that I'm going to race for – or team – in NASCAR and IndyCar, I'm pushing politely, but you can't make these things happen,” she said.
▪ Another potential Indy 500 team for Patrick, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, ruled itself out this week for both her and Juan Pablo Montoya, team co-owner Sam Schmidt told Autosport SPM.
“We haven’t really had any conversations about it, I know she’s talked to a few teams,” said Schmidt. “We kind of evaluate it as too much of a distraction with all the fanfare and everything that goes along with it.”
▪ One racing writer has offered one unusual scenario that would allow Patrick to get a ride in the Indy 500. Robin Miller wrote last month on Racer.com that IndyCar might pick up the tab.
“I’m starting to think she threw the idea out there without having a sponsor lined up,” Miller wrote. “So right now I’d say her best shot is if IndyCar picks up the tab, because it definitely wants her in the show.”
▪ Patrick is moving into the next phase of her life.
That included breaking up with her boyfriend, NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a spokesperson confirmed last month. The couple had dated since 2013.
“I’ve been doing different things and talking about different things, it’s like a fresh start, almost, with my career,” said Patrick, who turns 36 in March. “Cooking on TV with recipes I wrote, going on TV wearing workout clothes ... it’s so different. It has been fun to do something different.”
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Potential ‘Danica Double,’ at a glance
NASCAR Cup Series
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
2:30 p.m., Feb. 18
Verizon IndyCar Series
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
9:20 a.m., May 28