Danica ready to tackle draft, not future

She’s back. And Danica Patrick is no closer to revealing her career plans than she was the last time she dabbled in stock cars, on June 4 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Patrick says there’s no question about whether she “likes” NASCAR, it’s just a matter of making that next move.

“These things are complicated and they take time,” Patrick said. “Whether I’m coming here or not is yet to be signed, sealed and delivered — and I might not be. Only time will tell and that timeline on my side is I’m really not sure. I’m really not sure.

“All I know is that I’m told I have a job in the car, you do your job and we’ll do our job. They fill me in from time to time, but it’s only July.”

Currently, Patrick drives for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar. She is 11th in the IndyCar point standings. After nine events, Patrick has one top-five and five top-10 finishes.

On the NASCAR side, Patrick has run a partial schedule for JR Motorsports over the past two years. Team president Kelley Earnhardt said last month she was hopeful a deal would come soon. Patrick’s career best finish of fourth-place came in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas in March.

Thursday, Patrick said she does not anticipate driving a Sprint Cup car before the end of this year, but the buzz in the NASCAR garage has Patrick running for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2013.

A new twist in Patrick’s future could be the sale of her current sponsor GoDaddy to a group of private equity firms. GoDaddy Group, owned by Bob Parsons, registers Internet domain names and deals with internet commerce. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the company had "agreed to be bought" by private-equity firms KKR & Co., Silver Lake Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures.

But Patrick, who has been one of the most prominent faces for GoDaddy, says her position hasn’t changed — and won’t until she hears directly from Parsons.

"I remember this came up at the early part of the year," Patrick said Thursday. "He called and told me that it wasn’t true, and that was it. Then I went along. I haven’t heard from him about it. I don’t know if that means it’s being done, if it’s not going to be done. Perhaps they don’t know that answer either.

"Perhaps that why it’s still in speculation mode as opposed to reported true or reported false. Will that affect my relationship with them? I don’t know. It might not change anything. It might change everything. I’m not really sure. But like I said, right now for me it’s still status quo with them. We’re just trying to do a good job for them and represent them well."

This weekend Patrick will concentrate on NASCAR. While this is her third trip to Daytona, she’s still learning the intricacies of the 2.5-mile superspeedway. For veterans, that run multiple restrictor-plate races and have honed drafting skills, it’s not that big of a deal. But for a relative rookie, practice is more important.

“Well, if we weren’t bump drafting here, I’d say not necessarily,” Patrick said. “But with bump drafting I’d say yes. Just because I didn’t do any of it in Daytona and I didn’t go to Talladega. So I would say, yeah, yeah, yeah I need some practice and I need to be efficient at it, good at it, before the race starts.”

As tandem drafting has evolved, Patrick’s crew chief Tony Eury Jr. wanted his driver to be prepared before she took that next step.

“I didn’t let her draft until the end of the race,” Eury said. “I didn’t want her to take a chance in her messing up in practice and wrecking some cars because there is an art to it. That’s been one of her struggles — the depth perception of where the nose is because the closing rate is five cars back and you’re on them.

“She’s gone to Bristol now. She’s done places like that and she understands it more. That’s what we told her in February. We’re not going to do anything crazy. We’re not going to do the tango. Let’s just learn how to draft. Let’s side draft. Let’s get in a five-car pack. Let’s learn when we pull out of line what happens vs. when we stay in line and stuff like that and then we’ll see where our race goes.

“We’re just fortunate that when (Clint) Bowyer gave her that experience (in February’s Daytona Nationwide race) when he picked her up and showed her what would happen. When he let go of her, she didn’t have a clue what to do. She was like (voice rises) ‘what do I do? Do I hit the brake? I’m just holding it flat.’”

For Patrick, there’s still a learning curve. On Thursday, she scraped the wall on her second lap in practice. However, she picked up the pace by her 20th lap to 193.866 mph — her top speed for the day.

 

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