Andretti's bigger role at AGR could keep Patrick in IndyCar Series
Danica Patrick's choice between IndyCar and NASCAR nearing an end
Changes at Andretti Green Racing might lead to her stay in IndyCar
AGR announced this week a plan to have Michael Andretti take full control
SONOMA, Calif. -- It appears Danica Patrick is leaning strongly toward staying in the IndyCar Series now that Michael Andretti is in the process of taking full control of ownership at Andretti Green Racing (AGR).
"I think it's looking a bit like I'm returning," Patrick said in a private interview with SI.com on Friday. "I'm not done. We are still working through some things, but it's looking like that. It is moving along very positively."
AGR announced earlier this week that a plan is in place to have Andretti wholly own and operate the racing team while AGR principles Kevin Savoree and Kim Green will operate the promotions business, which includes staging races at St. Petersburg and Toronto.
"I do think that some of the things that have happened and the dynamics of what is happening with the team, seeing some of this come along, is a good thing for me," Patrick said. "I do think this plays into where I want to be in the future."
With Savoree removed from contract negotiations, Patrick said there is a tremendous comfort level and trust that exists between her and Andretti.
"Yes, I would prefer to talk to Mike than to Kevin because he is a larger owner in the team, and when I talk to Mike things get done," said Patrick, who's in the final year of a three-year contract and has considered leaving IndyCar for NASCAR. "I believe his heart is in it and he has a passion for everything from the business to the driving side, and he can relate to what the driver does as well."
Andretti spent 19 years driving open wheel cars and competed in 16 Indy 500s. Under his tutelage, Patrick had her best finish ever in the 500, coming home third in this year's race. She's currently fifth in the IndyCar Series standings, but with only four races to go, it's unlikely she'll win the title. Still, she has been the most successful of the four-driver team, which also includes former series champion Tony Kanaan, Andretti's son Marco and Japanese driver Hideki Mutoh.
Andretti confirmed that he is positive he can keep Patrick and her sponsor, Motorola, on his team for next season. A key to that would be the return of Motorola, which could provide the necessary income to meet Patrick's contract wishes. It's believed that Motorola's current three-year deal for Patrick's car is $17 million.
"All of the sponsorship is taken care of and it is pending if I'm staying or not," Patrick said. "And that would help the team put an offer out there and move forward. It's always the chicken or the egg. We have all been working forward, and it's a matter of working it out contractually. A new contract won't be done before Chicagoland [next week], but obviously if a deal is struck with the team that I'm with, we will know when it gets done. If it is not [done soon], then it will be at the end of the season, because that is the right thing to do."
If that answer has her remaining an IndyCar Series driver, it will be a big public relations victory for the open-wheel racing series just by keeping her from going to NASCAR.