After weeks of insisting that no announcement about Danica Patrick's future career plans in NASCAR and IndyCar is imminent, the questions still aren't dying away. In fact the longer the uncertainty lasts, the more insistent the questioning - and not just about her immediate racing plans.
"There's no announcement today and there probably won't be for many months," Danica told the latest press conferences she had to face at the weekend, admirably masking any frustration and impatience she might be feeling at answering the same old question hundreds of times now. "It's just the kind of thing that takes a lot of time. I don't really know exactly what's going on at this point.
"I've just been told to do my job in the race car and drive as fast as I can and get the best results that I can possibility get. And that only helps things."
Rumours had been rife that her post-Indy 500 return to the Nationwide last weekend for the first time since March might be the ideal time to make an announcement, and speculation was ramped up after the CEO of her primary sponsor, GoDaddy.com, seemed to be pushing for a switch to NASCAR
as soon as possible. However, not only has Danica insisted there will be no announcement this week, she's also hinted that one might not come until the end of the year.
"Traditionally for me these contracts don't get announced until after the season ends," she said, for the first time setting some sort of expectation on how soon - or not - her future plans for 2012 will be revealed.
She also insisted that she really wasn't too bothered by all the questions. "In the positive sense, I'm really flattered people want to know that badly and people are that curious, so that's the real positive about it.
"But the negative is that I don't have anything to say," she finished.
And as if the questions about a switch to NASCAR aren't enough, now the media are starting to take the "and when are you going to have kids?" line that seems inevitable for a female professional sports star - perhaps inspired by the surprise exit from the cockpit of Sarah Fisher at the end of 2010, who subsequently announced that she is expecting her first child with husband Andy O'Gara - a daughter - at the end of September.
"I'm not someone who has a strong yearning for kids at all," Danica said emphatically. "I think more all the time that looks hard, that looks difficult, that looks like something I'm not ready for and doesn't interest me at this point."
In an interview with USA Today
, she told the anecdote of how her sister Brooke "did her eighth-grade graduation poster on what she wanted to do when she grew up, and it said, 'A mom!'" She added dryly, and firmly: "That's definitely not what mine said."
In fact, forward planning in general seems difficult if not outright impossible for Danica.
"Every two years, my life changes a lot. I couldn't imagine what's going on now two years ago," she said. "The only thing I plan long term on are things outside of the car, outside interests or things I want to do with my husband." Patrick, now 29, married Paul Hospenthal in 2005.
She insisted that she doesn't plan to continue racing after she turns 40 and has ideas about becoming a clothes designer after she walks about of pit road for the last time. "I really enjoy [designing]," she said. "To have a clothing line would be really fun. I'm kind of creative like that anyway. I'll need to learn how to draw!" And she'll also need to protect and grow the Danica brand in the meantime.
She certainly doesn't see herself going into team management, as Sarah Fisher has done. "I like racing cars and the competition and the process of finding speed, but I'm not so much a gearhead. I mean, I watch E! News
!" said Danica.
But she's been warned by former Indy 500 champion Jimmy Vasser that "nothing compares to the ups and downs of racing and the emotional roller coaster that you're on," and that it can become addictive and seductive. "To get that same emotion and adrenaline, [owning a team] is what he needed to do. So I guess I can understand that."
Perhaps it's not being a "gearhead" that is causing her to hang back from making the final jump into NASCAR, which notoriously relies on the driver playing a major part in technical feedback to improve the car during the weekend and even during the race event itself. Danica admitted this is not her strong suit.
"I abandoned ship on trying to understand the car mechanically,” confessed Patrick about the #7 Tissot/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet Impala that she runs for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team. "I'm starting to understand it better, but over time [my crew chief Tony Eury Jr.] has learned with me what changes I tend to like and what changes I don't like."
"We'll just see what she decides to do," said her car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. "She just has to choose what she wants to do. What is right for her. What she thinks she will be happy doing. Just make the right choice for herself, that is what is important."
And in the meantime, no one - not media, fans, Earnhardt or even GoDaddy.com's deep-pocketed CEO - is going to force her hand and rush her into anything.