Danica Patrick has announced that she will add the Coca Cola 600 to her Cup schedule in NASCAR, meaning that she will not participate in the 96th Indianapolis 500, which runs on the same day, May 27th. Patrick, 29, made the decision last year to turn her back on the Indycar series, which she has competed in since 2005, in light of the diminishing number of ovals on the calendar, and will compete in NASCAR full time this year. However Danica, who became the first woman ever to lead at Indy in 2005 en route to a fourth place finish, and has a best result of third – attained in 2009, did not rule out a return in future.
“I’m not going to do the Indy 500,” she confirmed on Monday. “I hope to do it in the future. Maybe it’ll be a double [the Indy 500 and Coke 600 on the same day].
“But at this point in time, after a lot of conversations, it’s just going to be the Coke 600. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
Danica's Cup series owner Tony Stewart, who also made the switch to NASCAR from Indycar racing, praised Patrick's decision making, and believes that not dividing her attentions between the two races will help her get up to speed in NASCAR much quicker.
“We didn’t tell her she couldn’t run the 500. It was left up to her,” Stewart said.
“Obviously, she’s running the Nationwide car full time, and it’s a good weekend to get a lot of laps in the car. I don’t think about [Indy] anymore. It’s been so long since I’ve done it. You just focus. It shows how dedicated she is to making this transition.”
Only Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti have ever managed to compete all 1100 miles in the same day. Stewart came closest to taking the double, finishing ninth at Indy and fourth at Charlotte in 1999, and in his most recent attempt in 2001, taking sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte. He has since given up on his boyhood dream of taking Victory Lane in the 500, but has won the Brickyard 400 twice, in 2005 and 2007.
“The hard part for me was you make that decision when you sign up to do it,” Stewart said. “The decision you make, you have to come to peace with yourself with saying ‘I’m not going to do this.’ That was my childhood dream anyway. It may be a different scenario and feeling for her. But it was hard knowing when I signed that [NASCAR] contract that I was writing off the opportunity to go race at [the 500].
“It’s figuring out at the end of the day what do you really want to do. I guess that’s the part that even though it was hard to watch opening day of practice at Indianapolis, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, too, and this is what I want to do at the end of the day,” he continued. “It makes you want 30-hour days and 400-day years and we always want to do more than what we’re capable of doing, but the reality is you have to pick at some point and choose your career path. This is what I’ve done and what she’s doing now.”
Stewart echoed the sentiment of Jeff Gordon, a four-time winner of the Brickyard 400, who said back in 2010 that doing the double was no longer viable in the modern era.
“To me, they could offer $100 million to run both of those races or win both of those races and it wouldn’t affect my decision because I’m only going to go there [to Indy] if I feel like I can be competitive. To be competitive, I would need to be in those cars all of the time,” he said.
“I just don’t think you can do both Indy and the 600 and do them both really well, or good enough to win.”