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PENSKE ON PATRICK: “She’s not driving for us.”
When Danica Patrick runs the Indianapolis 500 next May, it won’t be for Roger Penske.
The multi-time champion confirmed on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway that Patrick would not drive for him during a post-race news conference for his team’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Owner’s Championship. It makes sense, as the Captain is already fielding four entries for Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.
He did make mention, though, of who he felt she was going to race for, saying that he sent a congratulatory note to Chip Ganassi following Patrick’s announcement on Friday.
“Unfortunately she’s not driving for us,” he said. “But I think that’s a great seat for her. If she is going to drive, that’s a great team. They’re the ones that have always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and a lot of interest around the country.”
On Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Patrick announced that this season would mark her final full-time season of racing competition, and she plans to finish her career off with next year’s Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.
In her press conference, she did not state which team she would drive for, but noted she was “down the line with different facets of moving forward but nothing final yet.” She also mentioned how it would be possible to run both events for the same team, which is only possible through Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. Chip Ganassi did confirm to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press that he had spoken to Patrick and her team, loved the idea, but things needed to come together in a business sense.
Although he won’t be fielding her entry, Penske sees her being able to have a successful finish. She has done well at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before, placing outside of the top-10 once in seven races with a career-best third in 2009.
“I think she’s going to be — in a good car she’ll pick it up,” Penske said. “She’s got plenty of time to practice, and you know, it’s four corners, a little bit different than maybe some races. But I take my hat off to her. If she can run the Daytona 500 where she’s been on the pole and run competitively, I think it’s a great way for her to say maybe, ‘Hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get on top.'”
2016 Indianapolis 500 Champion Sam Hornish Jr. was also on-hand as part of Penske’s championship-winning team and felt running the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 is a great way to close a career.
“You think about how many people as kids, as adults, whatever it is, (just) dream of being able to run in one of those two races,” he said. “For somebody to have the opportunity to do both of them in one year, I mean, it’s a great thing. Obviously, you think about just the time span and the differences in the cars from probably when she was in them last, there’s going to be a little bit of a difference in the way that even just the races are run.
“I think that if you look at the way that things are over there, patience is a big key about what the 500 is now and positioning yourself at the end, and that’s so much of what NASCAR is. So I think I agree with Roger on the fact that she’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done over the last five years.”
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