HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Danica Patrick broke down in tears Friday as she announced she will retire from full-time racing next year after running the Daytona 500 and then the Indianapolis 500, closing her career at the storied track that made her famous.
Patrick told The Associated Press it took her many months to come to the realization her career is all but over. Once she accepted it, the idea of ending her career at Indianapolis Motor Speedway popped into her head.
She told her agent, and she’s been working on putting together “The Danica Double” over the last several weeks.
“Nothing that was being presented excited me, then about three weeks ago, I just blurted out, ‘What about Indy? Let’s end it with the Indy 500,”’ she said. “This ignites something in me. But I am done after May. Everyone needs to put their mind there. My plan is to be at Indy, and then I’m done.”
Patrick would not reveal who she will drive for in either race next year, but Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars — he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year — and would give Patrick a car capable of winning.
Roger Penske and Michael Andretti both have full lineups announced for next year’s Indy 500. Patrick will not be driving in the Daytona 500 for Stewart-Haas Racing, team co-owner Tony Stewart said.
Patrick moved from IndyCar to NASCAR after the 2011 season, and has been racing Cup cars for SHR since 2012. She is being replaced after Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Aric Almirola.
Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.
Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even if success on the track was rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan.
Sponsorship trouble surfaced this year, too. When no strong opportunities for next season presented itself, Patrick decided to call it a career at Indy next Memorial Day weekend. — AP