- Brant James, Contributor, espnW.com
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CONCORD, N.C. -- On her second Memorial Day weekend removed from the Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick spoke in wistful terms about her open-wheel career and conceded that the likelihood of again attempting the race that manifested her fame is "less and less likely."
Patrick, then contesting a full Nationwide and partial Sprint Cup schedule including the Coca-Cola 600, had last year expressed a desire to attempt both the Indy 500 and its Sprint Cup retort in one day. But the anticipated difficulty in making a full-time transition to NASCAR's highest level this season precluded an attempt of the vaunted "double," she said. Patrick's management team was working on the logistics of what would have been a highly publicized endeavor last season before her Stewart-Haas Racing Cup team made its preferences clear.
"I really tried hard to do it this year and we all did on my team, and ultimately it came down to the fact that it wasn't going to help me here," said Patrick, who has one top 10 and an average finish of 26.3 in 11 Sprint Cup starts this season. "And this is what I've chosen to do now, and it's not fair to take away from it. I have a long way to go to figure this out, and I need to focus here. As the years go by and more and more distance goes between my full-time IndyCar career and now, or at that present time, it gets less and less likely."
Patrick's crew chief Tony Gibson agreed that a "double" attempt would be counterproductive for Patrick at this point in her NASCAR career.
"Man, that would be tough," he said. "I hope she doesn't do that. It's great for her because obviously it would be some history-making, but the problem is that's two different race cars, flying back and forth across the country. I don't think that would be the smartest thing for us. That's just me being selfish for what we're trying to accomplish."
Patrick's exploits in open-wheel racing's grandest spectacle provided the impetus for her ascent as a driver, an endorser and a mainstream curiosity. She set gender records in starting and finishing fourth in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, becoming the first female to lead laps (19) before conceding the front to eventual winner Dan Wheldon when her Rahal Letterman team was concerned how much fuel she had remaining. She reset her personal mark in 2009 by finishing third, and in seven starts had two top 5s and six top 10s, with an average finish of 8.7.
Patrick clearly remains a fan of open-wheel racing. She watches on television, and she engages reporters who cover both circuits in conversations about the latest news in the series, which she contested for seven years, winning once at Motegi, Japan, in 2008. On Thursday, she spoke as if the series and a race she has referred to as the "greatest in the world" were parts of her past.
"I have really fond memories and I, of course, would have loved to have won the race, but I feel very fortunate as a driver to be in a position to win a few times -- definitely, definitely two times having a really good chance," she said. "I feel good about that. ... I feel like it is what made me who I am today, so it did those things for me. I didn't win, but it did make me who I am today."
On her second Memorial Day weekend removed from the Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick spoke in wistful terms about her open wheel career and conceded that the likelihood of again attempting the race that manifested her fame is "less and less likely."