UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

Once again, Patrick's decision is NASCAR's loss but IndyCar's gain

SONOMA, Calif. -- Now that Danica Patrick has decided she is going to stay at Andretti Green Racing and the IndyCar Series, all that is left for it to become official is to work out the final details with team owner Michael Andretti and sign a contract.

Patrick told SI.com in an exclusive on Friday that she was leaning strongly toward remaining in the IndyCar Series now that Michael Andretti is in the process of taking full control of ownership at Andretti Green Racing (AGR).

After Saturday's IndyCar Series qualifications at Infineon Raceway, Patrick indicated her decision is made up and that they are in the process of finalizing an agreement to stay on the team she has raced for since 2007.

"Things are going well and we are definitely moving forward so that is good," Patrick said. "We are getting our stuff together for a new contract. This team is a great team and has won a heck of a lot of races so there is no reason that we can't win a lot more. Everyone works so hard and it is led by Michael Andretti. He has so much passion for this sport and says if we need to do something to go faster; let's do it. That's a good leader.

"We are getting it narrowed down but there is no paperwork yet. I think the job my agents do will be so thorough on the front end there won't be that much to do."

Patrick admitted that after flirting with the prospect of joining Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, or even considering the possibility of a switch to NASCAR, that her best opportunity to succeed is to remain right where she is.

"The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know," Patrick said. "Every team has its pitfalls and people that are difficult with different ways of doing things. I just like some of the changes that are being made here with this team and that is good for me.

"Other than Ganassi there is Penske but they have more drivers than they do cars. Before Will Power got hurt today he was kicking a lot of butt and was showing these guys Penske should add a third car. But other than AGR and Ganassi, those are the two teams that you want to go to."

Patrick is upbeat that her next contract with Andretti will continue to be a successful relationship between the two that includes Patrick becoming the first female ever to win a race in a major, closed-course racing series when she drove to victory in the IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi on April 19, 2008.

"We had some conversations not long ago about some of his thoughts and where he wants to go with things," Patrick said. "That meant a lot to me. If you want the same results, keep doing what you are doing. He didn't want to do that and that's a good thing. We really haven't shown that well this year and we want to get back on top where we should be."

Patrick believes her relationship with Andretti has helped her improve as an IndyCar Series driver. She has been in the top five in points for almost the entire season and remains mathematically in contention for the IndyCar Series title, although she is 139 points behind leader Scott Dixon with four races remaining.

This is the first season that Andretti has called race strategy for Patrick's car and the combination of the two has resulted in her best all-around season as an IndyCar driver.

"Mike has become more involved this year and let's face it -- he is in my pit box every race weekend," Patrick said. "He is getting into the business side of things and incorporating what he has learned as a driver."

AGR announced earlier this week that a plan is in place to have Andretti wholly own and operate the racing team while AGR principles Kevin Savoree and Kim Green will operate the promotions business, which includes staging races at St. Petersburg and Toronto.

Patrick also admitted that Tony George's ouster as president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Corporation created some uncertainty regarding the leadership of the IndyCar Series.

"I think it was a little surprising that he not only left the Speedway but the IndyCar Series as well," she said. "I still think there is a long way for this League and what they can do to grow. It might be all right that there is a shift at the top. What I'd like is to know what the chain of command is because I don't know who answers to who.

"That's something I'm curious about."

Patrick's sponsor at Motorola has also been happy with the attention she has given their products and the response to their commercials -- all an important aspect in Patrick agreeing to stay in IndyCar.

"I spent the last week with the folks at Boost Mobile and sat next to the president -- we've talked a lot about when we get this deal done to come up with some cool, new concepts for next year," Patrick said. "Any time people are talking about the future it's implied that you're in it. Everybody seems pretty happy at Motorola and Boost Mobile. It has been a really good relationship."

It's believed that Motorola's current three-year deal for Patrick's car is $17 million.

Andretti spent 19 years driving open wheel cars and competed in 16 Indy 500s. Under his tutelage, Patrick had her best finish ever in the 500, finishing third in this year's race.

Patrick has been the most successful of the four-driver team, which also includes former series champion Tony Kanaan, Andretti's son Marco and Japanese driver Hideki Mutoh.

Patrick could even consider an ownership stake in the future, but not with this contract.

"I think within the next couple of years in my career that might be something I would consider but right now that would be a lot on my plate," Patrick said.

Her decision to remain an IndyCar Series driver was met with approval from her fellow competitors.

"Whatever fits well for her is the biggest thing," said IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon. "She looked around a fair bit and decided to stay where she is. I think it is fantastic that she decided to stay here rather than do something else. It's better for the series to have her in it than for her to leave. I think the IRL is heading in the right direction and keeping her is very important."

Tim Cindric is the president of Team Penske and understands the value of star power in IndyCar as Helio Castroneves is one of his drivers.

"I'm glad she is staying in the series because it is a mutually beneficial deal for her," Cindric said. "The series is good for her and she is certainly good for the series. The team is going through some change but she has the confidence that team is the best place for her to be."

For the second time in a three-year period, Patrick's decision to remain an IndyCar Series driver is a big public relations victory for the open-wheel racing series just by keeping her from going to NASCAR.

"I'm not the only show here -- that's for darn sure," Patrick said. "There are a lot of great personalities. I wish the other driver's sponsors would put them on the map more than they do. Fans believe what they see. If they are in their local 7-Eleven store, they are famous and you pay more attention when they are in an interview.

"The League has always been real nice to me. The only thing I'm not happy about is the schedule because sometimes it seems like we are getting kicked out of joints. But I've been in this since the beginning and hopefully we can start taking strides forward."

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.