Options for Danica Patrick in her Indianapolis 500 return

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In a surprise announcement from Homestead-Miami Speedway this afternoon, Danica Patrick confirmed the end of her full-time racing career and additionally announced that she will run the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 next season.

“It just came from my heart, and I think it’s going to be awesome,” said Patrick.  “Nothing that was being presented excited me, then about three weeks ago, I just blurted out, ‘What about Indy?  Let’s end it with the Indy 500.’  This ignites something in me… But I am done after May.  Everyone needs to put their mind there.  My plan is to be at Indy, and then I’m done.”

Patrick, 35, has yet to confirm the respective teams she will be running for in the two events.  It is unclear who will field an additional entry for the Daytona 500, as that is less common for teams to do in NASCAR compared to the one-offs at Indianapolis, but there are potential IndyCar landing spots on the table now.

With the fallout between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and the Didier Calmels/Tristian Gommendy reaching the public, there should be an opening driving the SPM no. 77 car next May.  Once rumored for Juan Pablo Montoya, he will still be considered at length due to his recent appearances and success in the open wheel ranks.  Despite the Montoya factor, this seems to be the best available seat and fit for Danica.

Ed Carpenter Racing is another potential landing point for Patrick, provided that ECR decides to run a third entry once again in 2018.  They are currently looking first to fill a void in their no. 20 program on the road and street course slate while Ed Carpenter continues to run oval races.  Normally there is a third car from Dale Coyne Racing, but would Coyne substitute the Indy 500’s current queen Pippa Mann with Danica?  If Patrick can bring the necessary funding, then there is a possibility of this.

Patrick seen with team owner Bobby Rahal in 2005

Danica will be with a new team for Indianapolis, as Rahal (above) and Andretti have both confirmed that they will not run additional cars for the 35-year-old Patrick.

An outside chance of opportunity with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was dashed when Bobby Rahal confirmed that they will not run a team car for Dancia at Indianapolis.  Patrick rose through the open-wheel ranks with the support of Rahal, making a captivating debut at Indianapolis in 2005 where she was leading the race as late as lap 194 before finishing fourth.

It should also be mentioned that Chip Ganassi Racing could parlay Patrick into a third entry come May.  The team downsized their once four-car operation to just two for 2018, and would be more likely to take on an additional entry for the 500 as opposed to Andretti Autosport, who confirmed that they will not have a spot for Patrick come May 2018.  Look for Ganassi to be a dark horse in this game.

A winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2008 at Japan, Patrick has not had a top five over six years of full-time competition in NASCAR’s top series.  While she had previously shuttered notions of returning to the Indianapolis 500, a lack of funding for a full-time Cup ride has seemingly changed her tune.  “I know I always said I’d never go back to Indy, and I was being honest,” she told the Associated Press.  “Well, things change.”

Sure to be another wild May, we wait to see where Danica will end up.  Personally, it feels as if the Schmidt Peterson no. 77 entry would be the most logical pairing but that is dependent upon the length of which conversations have progressed with Juan Pablo Montoya.  If SPM is commited to the Columbian, the look for Patrick to land at either Chip Ganassi Racing or Ed Carpenter Racing.

Images courtesy of IndyCar and Business Insider

Tanner Watkins

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