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Where Will Danica Land for Final Indy 500 Drive next May?

Not long after a tearful Danica Patrick announced the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil would be the final race of her career, the news was still very fresh for many Verizon IndyCar Series team owners to digest.

She plans on returning to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for the first time since the 100th Anniversary race in 2011. “Danica Mania” began in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 when, as a rookie, she became the first female driver to lead the race and was in front with seven laps remaining before she was passed by eventual winner Dan Wheldon.

Patrick finished fourth that day but created a phenomenon that continues 12 years later. That spectacular ride included her historic victory in 2008 at Twin Ring Motegi, becoming the first female driver to win a race in a major closed-course racing series.

After becoming a big name in IndyCar, she switched gears to become a fulltime NASCAR Cup driver in 2012 after spending a season in the XFINITY Series.

Patrick announced Nov. 17 she would run in the 2018 Daytona 500 and the 2018 Indianapolis 500 and retire as a race driver.

So, which team will she drive for at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next May?

That has yet to be determined but let’s look at some of the possibilities.

Chip Ganassi Racing: Focusing on Two Cars, But You Never Know

Chip Ganassi Racing has scaled from four cars to two with 2008 Indy 500 winner and four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon in the No. 9 and second-year driver Ed Jones in the No. 10. Chip Ganassi Racing managing partner Mike Hull said the team is focusing on two cars only at Indy for next season.

“Nobody has talked to us about it,” Hull told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile App. “It’s been a while since we’ve done a one-off. We are concentrating on running full-season entries at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a while now.

“We have decided to concentrate on two cars and have structured ourselves to do that. To be able to run a third car at Indianapolis you have to be able to run it in an equal manner. Like Mickey Rooney, you can’t throw the band together at the last moment and expect everybody to show up on the stage and all of the instruments to be in tune. To do it right would require a lot of planning and have an additional staff in place to make it happen, which we don’t currently have.

“If someone comes along like Danica and it makes sense to us, it would be a big undertaking for us to make it happen.”

But team owner Chip Ganassi sounds more promising.

After NASCAR Cup qualifications Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Ganassi told a small group of reporters he has been approached by Patrick and her representatives to run both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 for his team.

“I think it’s a fabulous marketing idea. It’s a fabulous opportunity,” Ganassi said. “Obviously the business side of the deal has to work. I just learned about all this yesterday. That’s what has to be worked out. I’m a long way from saying, ‘Yes, I can do that.’

“I need to know more to be interested. I need to know more. I need to talk to my people. There’s a lot of moving parts on a deal like that.”

Don’t Bet Against Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Team owner Dennis Reinbold always has a competitive Chevrolet in the Indy 500 as a one-off team. Sage Karam has piloted that car in the race since 2016, and DRR is expected to run two cars in the 2018 Indy 500, according to Patrick’s father T.J.

“They are looking at two cars, so you never know,” T.J. Patrick said. “They always run well at the Indy 500. Anything is possible.”

The team’s general manager is Chase Selman, who is Danica’s brother-in-law and married to Patrick’s sister, Brooke.

When asked if the team is talking to Patrick, Selman said, “No comment.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing? Probably Not

Danica could return to the team where she started it all – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. But team owner Bobby Rahal told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile App on Nov. 17 that, for now, he was focusing on a two-car effort that includes his son, Graham, and defending Indy 500 winner, Takuma Sato.

“Nobody had called me to even suggest that, and we have two cars in the race and I’m focused on those two cars,” Rahal said. “I don’t know what her plans are, but I am certainly not part of them, I’ll tell you that.

“Would I be interested? Sure, if it works for our organization. We’ll find out. But I have not been contacted.”

Andretti Autosport? Forget About It

A return to Andretti Autosport? That’s not going to happen, TJ Patrick told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile App on Nov. 17.

“I can pretty much guarantee you it won’t be Andretti,” TJ Patrick said.

Besides, team owner Michael Andretti’s stable is quite full for next year’s Indianapolis 500. The team’s four fulltime drivers include 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, 100th Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi, two-time IndyCar race winner Marco Andretti and team newcomer Zach Veach. Stefan Wilson has already been named to the team’s “one-off” ride for next year’s Indy 500, and team owner Michael Andretti has previous said his team is all set for next year’s 500.

Full House at Team Penske for Indy

Team owner Roger Penske has said he will run just four cars at next year’s Indy 500, including the three full-timers: 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power and 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud. The “one-off” will be three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

ECR Makes a Lot of Sense

Ed Carpenter Racing fields a third car every year at the Indianapolis 500. In 2018, the team’s lineup will include owner/driver Ed Carpenter in the No. 20 Chevrolet and Spencer Pigot in the No. 21. The ECR cars are usually very competitive in the Indianapolis 500 and could give Patrick a car that could contend to win.

Efforts to reach Carpenter for comment were unsuccessful.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Is ‘All Full’

Another team owner, Sam Schmidt, told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile App “we’re full” in regard to the team’s lineup for next year’s Indy 500 that will include Canadians James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens. Jack Harvey of England is expected to get the third seat for the Indy 500.

“I think it’s great for the sport that she will be ending her career in the Indy 500, and I think she will do a very good job,” Schmidt said. “But at this point, we’re full.

“We’re full, and that’s it.”


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