Danica Patrick to skip Indy 500
CONCORD, N.C. -- Danica Patrick has added the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to her 2012 Sprint Cup schedule, eliminating any possibility she will run in the Indianapolis 500.
"I'm not going to do the Indy 500,'' the former IndyCar Series driver said on Monday to kick off the 2012 Sprint Media Tour. "I hope to do it in the future. Maybe it'll be a double.
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"But at this point in time, after a lot of conversations, it's just going to be the Coke 600. It's going to be a big challenge.''
Patrick, who is running a full Nationwide Series schedule at JR Motorsports and part-time Cup schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing as she makes the transition from open-wheel racing to stock cars, said it was a business decision to run NASCAR's longest race that is held on the same day as the 500 in May.
Stewart-Haas Racing team owner Tony Stewart said the decision to sit out the Indianapolis 500 was Patrick's decision. Both the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 are run on May 27.
"We didn't tell her she couldn't run the 500. It was left up to her," Stewart said. "It shows how dedicated she is to making this transition."
Patrick competed in her first Indianapolis 500 in 2005 and finished fourth, the highest finish in that race for a female driver. It remains her goal to win the 500.
"It was just something that didn't work out, the business side of things didn't work out,'' Patrick said. "Again, I'm hopeful to do it in the future, but this year it didn't happen.''
Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti have all tried to run both events on the same day. Stewart, NASCAR's three-time champion, completed the double twice: In 1999, he was ninth at Indy and fourth at Charlotte, and in 2001, he was sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.
He's not tried Indianapolis since, and has let go of his childhood dream of winning the 500. He has twice won the Brickyard 400, NASCAR's race at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The hard part for me was you make that decision when you sign up to do [NASCAR]," Stewart said. "The decision you make, you have to come to peace with yourself with saying 'I'm not going to do this.' That was my childhood dream anyway. It may be a different scenario and feeling for her. But it was hard knowing when I signed that [NASCAR] contract that I was writing off the opportunity to go race at Indy.
I hope to do it in the future. Maybe it'll be a double. But at this point in time, after a lot of conversations, it's just going to be the Coke 600. It's going to be a big challenge.” -- Danica Patrick, on forgoing the Indy 500
"It's figuring out at the end of the day what do you really want to do. I guess that's the part that even though it was hard to watch opening day of practice at Indianapolis, I'm enjoying what I'm doing, too, and this is what I want to do at the end of the day," he continued. "It makes you want 30-hour days and 400-day years and we always want to do more than what we're capable of doing, but the reality is you have to pick at some point and choose your career path. This is what I've done and what she's doing now."
But Stewart said so long as Indianapolis Motor Speedway makes it logistically possible for Patrick to attempt both races, she may eventually run the race again. He said he has no interest in fielding a car for her, citing how much he's already doing with all his other teams.
Patrick will make her Sprint Cup debut in the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.
"At Daytona, the cars are very fast, so I feel good about that race," she said. "I was lucky enough to get to run with Tony in the Nationwide race last summer and that went pretty good, so I feel good about Daytona and I think there's a real chance, if luck falls our way, to perhaps win.
"I think it's a real chance. I mean a guy like Trevor Bayne last year showed that. Those are the expectations for the first race."
Bayne, a rookie last season, was the upset winner of the Daytona 500, which Stewart said was proof that Patrick is a viable contender.
"A rookie won it last year, why would you ever count yourself out?" he asked. "She's a talented driver. Our cars were really fast at Daytona. At that point, I'd have that confidence."
Patrick announced eight of her 10 races late last season. The 600 leaves her with one open slot.
She didn't rule out making the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis her 10th Cup race.
"Somebody even mentioned something about the All-Star race,'' she said of the non-points event the week before the 600 at CMS. "I was like, 'I don't think I'm an All-Star.' They're like, 'Well, there is a fan vote?'
"The Brickyard might be a great place to add a 10th race. IndyCar fans, there is a lot of them there of course. It would be great to go there and do the big NASCAR race. I love that track. It's my favorite track.' "
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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