Patrick eyeing NASCAR as George saga unfolds in IndyCar
Tony George's future with the IRL could factor into Danica's future plans
Across the board, IndyCar owners were quick to defend George
WEST ALLIS, Wisconsin -- A Hulman-George family feud may provide IndyCar star Danica Patrick with the nudge she needs to jump to NASCAR.
Patrick was asked about that scenario by SI.com at the Milwaukee Mile on Saturday and said stability of the racing series will factor into her decision.
She is in the final year of her contract with Andretti Green Racing and has said she will look at any and all options, including a jump to NASCAR.
That option didn't diminish last week as reports of strife within the Hulman-George family surfaced. Never mind that Tony George's position as Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO seems safe for now; the turmoil raised some concerns.
"That's kind of an interesting question," Patrick said. "What you want in a league is stability and upward momentum. I have no idea what that is right now. There seems to be conflicting answers and ideas on what is really happening."
Patrick has hired IMG to represent her as she negotiates her next contract. While her heart may be in IndyCar, her agent may see bigger opportunities -- financially and in terms of exposure -- in stock cars.
"All I'm really concerned about is the structure and the stability of the group I'm racing for," Patrick said. "Whether Tony George comes or goes, I think [the real concern is whether the] stability is there throughout the season, no matter what has happened. If that is the case, I don't think it will completely influence my decision. But I have to factor in everything."
Patrick finished fifth in Sunday's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at the Milwaukee Mile, her fourth-straight top-five finish. She is now fourth in IndyCar Series points, 22 behind leader Scott Dixon, and has established herself as one of the leading contenders for this year's series championship.
"It was a solid day," said Patrick, who finished third at the Indy 500 -- the highest finish ever for a female driver. "It was another top five. All of our finishes except for the season opener are top fives, and I presume that one would have been a top five as well. We really are becoming a championship contender. I really thought we had a good shot at winning [today], but those cars in front of me were really strong."
Helio Castroneves finished 11th, a week after becoming the ninth driver to win the Indianapolis 500, and said he believes Patrick has improved dramatically and should be considered a threat for the title as the season heads into June.
"I always said and have been outspoken about Danica in terms that she is a good driver," Castroneves said. "So if she is in the top five in points, no question she is doing a fantastic job. She deserves it. She has been driving very well. I think everybody in the top five is a contender."
Dixon's victory on Sunday was his 18th career IndyCar Series win. It put him four points ahead of Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, who are tied with 157 points apiece. Patrick is fourth with 139 points as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday night's race.
"There are so many good competitors," Dixon said. "They can pop up at any point. I think she could definitely be a factor, especially with a lot of ovals that we have left on the schedule. But there are a good six, seven, eight people that could win this championship and she is one of them."
Patrick's emergence as a legitimate contender rather than a novelty act could be coming at a perfect time for her to cash in on her new contract. The series certainly doesn't want to lose its most recognizable face.