Good news, IRL-o-philes! Danica Patrick, erstwhile Maxim model, former winner of the informal "Most Awkward Cheesecake Photo Pose Ever," current Go-Daddy Girl and - oh yeah - racing driver, told Sports Illustrated's Bruce Martin that she is likely to stay in the IndyCar Series instead of making a rumored (and extremely ill-advised) move to NASCAR.

The onetime one-time IRL race winner and famed Indy 500 top-fiver has seen a breakthrough in negotiations with Andretti-Green Racing after it was announced this week that AGR will split its promotions arm off into a separate concern. According to Patrick, having to deal with AGR partners Kevin Savoree and Kim Green was one of the reasons why she was looking at tin-tops in the first place:

"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... 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."
Reading between the lines, of course, one gets the sense that Danica's asking price of $17 million for three seasons behind the wheel likely didn't go down Savoree's craw as smoothly as it might have Andretti's. Anyone connected to the IRL knows that, for better or for worse, Danica can write her own check because of the absolutely disproportionate level of exposure she generates for the league compared to virtually anything else besides the 500-mile race itself. But it is possible that Savoree, concerned with not only the competition side of the AGR business but also with its promotions arm and other assorted responsibilities, could have seen the giant chunk of cash destined for Ms. Hospenthal's bank accounts and had a minor bout of skepticism.

Michael Andretti, of course, knows that essentially his race team's financial survival could hinge on Danica's presence therein. AGR has struggled markedly this season after the "red car" teams of Penske and Ganassi took their game to a new level, and with Tony Kanaan's bad luck streak and the invisibility of both his son Marco and Hideki Mutoh, Danica has actually been the best driver on the team all year. So naturally it is in his best interests to get Danica signed as quickly as possible.

Danica, for her part, is not stupid. The actual likelihood of her becoming a NASCAR driver was about as probable as it was the last time she was up for contract - which is to say, not very likely at all. While Danica has as healthy an ego as any superstar athlete, she is also possessed of at least a baseline amount of common sense, and that common sense says that her choices were either to be a contender in the IRL or to cool her heels in NASCAR's minor leagues for a while before "proving herself" to the stock-car community. She is no fool - she has seen what has happened to her confreres who have tried to make the Big Leap to the Big Time, and at this point only Sam Hornish looks to be within sniffing distance of success after a couple of years of struggling and dues-paying.

In short, the Fanica Panicka about her defection was likely a wee bit overblown.

Still, while it is probably not a "big public relations victory" for the IRL as Martin suggests, it's still good news that their most relevant driver will be back in their most relevant race next year. If a Savoree-less AGR can get their program back on track, she might even be a favorite to win the Borg-Warner Trophy. At the end of the day, that's what matters most to Danica.


  1. George Phillips (Oilpressure) // August 22, 2009 9:17 AM  

    Not a Danica fan personally, but she has raised her game this year. I also understand the marketing ramifications that her leaving would cause. Personally, I was (and still am) hoping to see her go to a third Ganassi car.

  2. Damon // August 22, 2009 9:25 AM  

    If she doesn't end up at Ganassi, you can point directly to the driver of the 9 car as the sole reason why, IMO.

  3. Anonymous // August 22, 2009 2:10 PM  

    She is staying because the major leagues (NASCAR) doesn't want her (or her sponsor money isn't enough to buy her way into NASCAR). Same as last time.

    And what exactly does she bring to the Indy Car series anyway? Fans? I don't think so. There are far more fans long gone from the sport then any that she has brought in.

    Her "popularity" is far overrated and the "worry" that some had that Indy Car might "lose" her was laughable. She is a nice midpack talent, who has marketed herself to the lowest common denominator of society. And somehow done it all, with one career professional race win. Its a great country, ain't it?

  4. Grumpy Bastard // August 22, 2009 2:10 PM  

    So Danica is stuck another season with the whiny baby Marco who couldn't have gotten a ride anywhere else other than on the family team.

  5. SkipinSC // August 22, 2009 2:44 PM  

    I was growing tired of the "Drama Queen Danica" at the end of lasty year, but, as George said, she has "raised her game" this year.

    Fact is, aside from Helio's tax situations and his dancing prowess, she's the only thing marketed outside the realm od ICS fandom.

    Will she ever win a championship at AGR? Probably not. But she could capture "lightning in a bottle" and win Indy: She's come close twice.

    Would it be better if she was racing for TCGR? Maybe, but if she can reconcile herself with dealing with father and (maybe) son for another contract,then maybe AGR's was the best offer on the table.

    The separation of the AGR group is a wild card: If Michael really concentrates on working his race team, can he make it back into the top three? That reamins to be seen as well.

  6. redd // August 22, 2009 3:30 PM  

    danica is valuable to the IRL because of the recognition she brings.

    and as any "major league" or wrestling fan knows, these days it's all about personality and marketability, not just driving skills.

    neckcar would love to get their marketing hands on danica, I hope the report is right and she's staying.

  7. Damon // August 22, 2009 4:50 PM  

    Report confirmed via Cavin's twitter, she's staying in the IRL with AGR.

    As for Skip's comment, just look at what they did today. All five cars made the top 12 and four in the top 8, good sign.

    I'll be curious to see how they do these last 3 oval races though, because that will be the tale-tale sign of what they could do in 2010.

  8. Anonymous // August 23, 2009 7:10 AM  

    "neckcar would love to get their marketing hands on danica."

    First of all, its NASCAR. The "Neckcar" references from the AOW snobs, looks petty. Especially, when your series gets no TV ratings, no sponsors and is basically on its last legs as a sport.

    NASCAR and its teams have had 2 opportunities to "get their hands on Danica". They have PASSED twice. She has practically been BEGGING to find somebody in NASCAR-Land to hire her, and have found NO TAKERS. The only way she ever gets to NASCAR (with her talent-level as a driver) is to buy a ride.

    She will NEVER get to the majors of American Racing, without that.

  9. Anonymous // August 23, 2009 8:44 AM  

    Question for Anonymous 1: Since you obviously hate the IRL and feel the same about Danica - What the hell are you doing posting on an IRL Blog?????
    This how you get your kicks?? Get a life!
    Surely there are enough Nascar races and drama to keep you occupied elsewhere.

    Anonymous 2

  10. redd // August 23, 2009 9:23 AM  

    some of my best friends are fans of the tintops. the difference is that they have a sense of humor.

  11. Anonymous // August 23, 2009 10:22 AM  

    Actually, the first time I heard "Neckcar" was from Jim Rome. I'm hardly a fan of his, but at the time he was fan of any type of motorsports. Still isn't, to my knowledge.

    Open-wheel fans may have borrowed Neckcar, but we didn't coin the phrase. It came from a self-proclaimed disinterested party simply observing fans of the cabbies.

  12. Anonymous // August 23, 2009 11:31 AM  

    How about NAPCAR?


    Call me when they get fuel injection, in-car jacking systems, & pit-lane speed limiters (so they don't decide a race from a luxury suite housing "officials"...)

    -Anonymous 3

  13. Anonymous // August 23, 2009 4:37 PM  

    I myself used to say some of the same nasty things about NASCAR, but since become a casual fan of that type of racing. I have asked my wife and children to do an intervention and have me deprogrammed, against my will if necessary to go away from the dark side and back to open wheel.

    But it is hard to argue against success and it is NASCAR making the dough these days and not open wheel.

  14. Declan // August 24, 2009 12:15 PM  

    Has anyone looked at the IRL ratings in the last 15 years?

    Danica hasn't helped and it is simply a myth that she is bringing eyeballs to the series.

    It just makes no sense.