Danica Patrick is returning to the Indianapolis 500.
The popular driver announced today that she is retiring from full-time driving after NASCAR’s season finale this weekend in Miami. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver got emotional during her press conference, as she expressed her gratitude to those who have helped her along the way. Over seven full seasons, Danica has started 115 races in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Her last race came in 2011, as she transitioned to NASCAR full-time after that.
It is a different kind of “double” that Danica will be doing, with the two most iconic 500-mile races in the world. Danica will make her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500 next year, and her final race will be the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Having never driven the DW12 chassis, Patrick expects that it will take some time for her to re-adjust to the open-wheel machines. “It’s different for sure, but I don’t feel like today I’m a worse driver than I was when I drove IndyCars. I essentially am a better driver. So, it’ll take a little bit of acclimating. But I think we’ll cross that bridge once we get a little bit closer. Luckily there’s a fair amount of time before that. I would like to get in a car before I get to Indy.”
The two races are perfect for Patrick, who has performed well in both. She earned pole position for the 2013 Daytona 500, and has finished in the top ten of the Indy 500 in six of her seven starts. She finished 4th as a rookie, and 3rd in 2009. Danica has led 29 laps at Indy, and is the only female driver to lead laps in both of these prestigious events.
The real question is which teams will she be driving for? Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Andretti Autosport are the two IndyCar teams she has driven for at Indy, but both have ruled out a return for the 102nd running next year. Roger Penske’s team is also full, but rival Chip Ganassi likely has a pair of cars as they have downsized from four cars to two for next season. Ganassi could also provide her with a car in NASCAR, as Tony Stewart’s team will not be running her at Daytona. A lineup of Scott Dixon, Ed Jones, Kyle Larson, and Patrick could potentially be on the horizon.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles is excited for the added storyline for next year’s iconic race. “It’s fitting that Danica is wrapping up her career at the place and in the race where she became a household name and captured the world’s attention in 2005; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500.”
Team owners Michael Andretti and Bobby Rahal joined several IndyCar drivers in expressing their excitement with today’s news. Danica’s return to IndyCar’s biggest stage should be beneficial for everyone. It just feels right.