News & Media

Speculation ramps up about Patrick's NASCAR future

May 29, 2011, David Caraviello,

CONCORD, N.C. -- Is Danica Patrick bound for a full-time ride in NASCAR?

That's the question in the wake of the Indianapolis 500. Reports out of Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday quoted Bob Parsons, founder of Patrick's car sponsor, as saying he supported such a move, citing the stock-car league's superior television ratings. Speculation about Patrick's future has ramped up since Bump Day at Indianapolis, when she almost failed to make open-wheel racing's biggest race.

Patrick, who finished 10th in the 500, told media members in Indianapolis this week that she had yet to make any decisions on her future, contrasting with a report that her management team was working on a full-time NASCAR deal for 2012. Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose JR Motorsports team owns the car Patrick drives on a limited basis on the Nationwide Series, also seemed unsure of her future.

"We'll just see what she decides to do," Earnhardt said at Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. "I think she wants to have more success, and doing it all the time would be a good move. She just has to choose what she wants to do, what is right for her, what she thinks she will be happy doing. Just make the right choice for herself, that is what is important."

Patrick, who has a one-year option remaining on her current contract with her IndyCar team, ran a limited schedule on the Nationwide tour in 2010 and is doing the same this year. Thus far she has run four of her scheduled 12 Nationwide events, with a top finish of fourth at Las Vegas that was the best ever by a female driver in a NASCAR national-series race. Her Nationwide schedule resumes at Chicagoland Speedway next weekend.

"She has been racing with us enough to know whether she is ready or not," Earnhardt said. "It is really up to her. It is really not up to anybody else. My opinion on that deal really doesn't matter. She is the one who knows the truth, and she'll make the decision I think she needs to make, and that will be that."