Danica told Andretti she wouldn't return to IndyCar in January 2011
In Aug. 2011, Danica Patrick announced that she was leaving IndyCar for NASCAR
Patrick had said throughout the summer that she was exploring her options, but ...
... Michael Andretti said Danica, per her contract, informed him of move in January
SEBRING, Fla. -- Andretti Autosport was far more prepared for the exodus of driver Danica Patrick than most anyone expected.
At a preseason IndyCar test at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday, team owner Michael Andretti said Patrick, as required by the terms of her final contract with his team, informed him early last year that she would not return.
"January of '11 she had to let us know what she was doing for '12," Andretti said. "We purposely put it in the contract so in case she decided to leave, we had time. I'm glad we did that."
Patrick signed a two-year deal with Andretti Autosport in 2009. It contained a mutual option for 2012. She asserted throughout the summer, with cover from Andretti, that her business team was exploring "all options," including returning to Andretti and IndyCar. Patrick, who raced part-time schedules in NASCAR's Nationwide Series in 2010 and 2011, announced in late August that she would leave IndyCar for a full-time Nationwide slate this season with JR Motorsports and 10-race Sprint Cup deal with Stewart-Haas Racing that will likely begin with the Daytona 500. She is expected to join the Sprint Cup series full-time with SHR beginning in 2013. Patrick has made 25 starts for JRM, and became the highest-finishing female in NASCAR history with a fourth-place result at Las Vegas last season.
Patrick's only IndyCar victory in 115 races came with Andretti at Motegi, Japan in 2008. Her third-place finish in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 is the best for a female in the sport's prime race.
Andretti had signed Dan Wheldon, who won the 2005 series title and Indianapolis 500 with Andretti, to replace Patrick, but Wheldon died in a 15-car wreck in the final race of the IndyCar season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. This month, Andretti signed 2011 Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe to assume Patrick's GoDaddy.com-sponsored program.
Andretti called the atmosphere in the team's first preseason test since 2007 without Patrick "very positive, really, excited."
"I think, actually, Danica ran her course here and I think she was really valuable to the team and the series," Andretti said, "but I think it started to overshadow all the other talent we have in the series and we have so many great personalities and talents, now they're going to be a little more to the forefront. I think it's just going to be more of a positive for our series on the whole."