Danica Patrick confirmed today that she would not be making a bid to enter the 2012 Indianapolis 500 in May, and will instead be entering the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race held the same weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"I'm going to do the Coke 600 this year, I'm not doing the Indy 500," Patrick confirmed today during the first stop on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour at Daytona International Speedway on Monday, ahead of the start of the new season in February.
IndyCar organisers had hoped that their former biggest star name would return for a one-off reappearance in the Indy 500, the race that made her name when she became the first female racer to lead a lap of the greatest spectacle in motorsports in the 2005 event. She went on to claim fourth place in her rookie year in the event and dominated the headlines even over the eventual race winner, Dan Wheldon.
Patrick was quick to add that today's announcement did not mean that the Indy 500 was ruled out in the future, however.
"I hope to do it in the future, and maybe it'll be a double. But at this time, after a lot of conversations, it's just going to be the Coke 600," she said. "As far as the business side of things, it didn't work out ... I'm hopeful to do it again in the future, but for this year, it just didn't happen."
Instead, Patrick has decided to add the exacting Coke 600 - the longest race in the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule - to her limited season of ten Cup appearances that she is making alongside her full season in the Nationwide Series.
"I think it's going to be a big challenge but I'm looking forward to it, especially as it's a hometown [event] for NASCAR," she said.
It's still a possibility that Patrick may race at Indianapolis later in the year - in the NASCAR Brickyard 400. "The Brickyard might be a great place to add a tenth race," she agreed. "There is a lot of [IndyCar fans] there of course. It would be great to go there and do the big NASCAR race. I love that track. It's my favorite track."
Her Cup team boss Tony Stewart said the decision over whether to try making the Indy 500 had been entirely down to Patrick. "We didn't tell her she couldn't run the 500," he 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 [at Charlotte.] It shows how dedicated she is to making this transition."
Stewart himself has followed the same path, switching from IndyCar in 1998 a year after winning the series title in order to race stock cars full time. Stewart even tried the Indy 500/Coke 600 double-header on three occasions - but no longer. "I don't think about it anymore," he said when asked about his own feelings toward the Indy 500. "It's been so long since I've done it."