Patrick says another Indy 500 ‘less and less likely’
By STEVE REED
CONCORD, N.C. — Danica Patrick still follows the Indianapolis 500 closely, even pre-organizing her race day schedule this Sunday so she can watch most of the event.
As for participating in the race again, that’s a different story.
Patrick, who first earned her popularity in open-wheel racing, said her focus is on the Sprint Cup series and the chances of her running at the Indy 500 become “less and less likely with each passing year.”
“Each year my desire to race there is less and less and my apprehension grows higher and higher,” Patrick told The Associated Press earlier this week.
Patrick said she briefly contemplated pulling “double duty” this year and racing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Coca 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day just as her current team owner Tony Stewart has done in the past.
But Patrick thought better of the idea.
“I thought this year was going to happen, but it’s just not going to be helpful for my Cup career,” said Patrick, who has run the Indy 500 seven times. “And at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.”
Patrick’s history in IndyCar is well known, and she did well at the Indy 500, too. She qualified fourth in 2005, eventually led 29 laps during her open-wheel career and finished third in 2009 after challenging for the win.
Patrick now wants her attention on getting better at NASCAR racing.
In her first full season on the Sprint Cup series, Patrick ranks 28th in the point standings with only one top-10 finish, that being an eighth place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500. She’s finished 25th or worse in nine of the 11 Sprint Cup point races this season.
Stewart thinks the idea of Patrick focusing on NASCAR is a good idea.
“It makes for a very, very long day,” said Stewart, who pulled double duty in 1999 and 2001. “When you’re done with the 600, after running Indy and the flight and helicopter rides and police escorts and all that during the day, you’re very, very content to lay your head on a pillow. And even when you do that, it still feels like it’s not stopped moving, yet.”
Stewart remains the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles of the two races in the same day, accomplishing that feat in 2001. That came two years after Stewart’s first attempt at the double — one which he admitted he wasn’t properly prepared to handle and didn’t turn out so well.
“The first year we were so worried about dehydration that I drank and I drank and I drank and I drank,” Stewart said. “I just never ate enough solid, nutritious food the night before. And the day of the race, I wasn’t hungry because I was drinking so much to try to ensure that I was being hydrated. I got my body so out of whack that, by the time the 600 was done in Charlotte, I’d had enough.”
Patrick spent last weekend tuned into qualifying at the Indy 500 and her eyes light up she talks about the Brickyard.
“I love that event,” Patrick said. “Having social media allows you to see what’s going on much more these days. I watched qualifying last weekend and I’m definitely going to be watching on race day.”
She said one of the drivers she’ll be rooting for is James Hinchcliffe, who is sponsored by the same company as Patrick.
“There is a Go Daddy car out there and their business is doing well that’s a good thing for me, too,” Patrick said. “But I feel like by the end of the race I’ll be pulling for someone. I just don’t know who that’s going to be yet. But I’m anxious for the race.”
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