Officials at Roush Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports spent part of Sunday putting down another Danica Patrick rumor. This one, from an Internet blogger, implied that the companies are fighting over the IndyCar driver. The story offered no proof, only that “sources” have said that Rick Hendrick apparently has beaten Jack Roush, and that Patrick will replace Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Team owner Jack Roush hasn’t ruled her out as a potential driver. In his scenario, though, she’d spend a year or two in a lower-level series before trying Cup. Patrick has said she wants to start at the top of the next series if she leaves the Indy Racing League.”
Hendrick Motorsports spokesman Jesse Essex took great exception to the story. “There is absolutely no truth to it,” he said. “We were not given an opportunity to comment on the story prior to it being published. If we had, we would have said there’s absolutely nothing to it. Nothing at all.”
If Danica Patrick does jump from the Indy Racing League to NASCAR, as increasingly appears likely, the battle for her, according to sources close to the negotiations, is down to car owners Rick Hendrick, of Chevrolet, and Jack Roush, of Ford. According to these sources, Hendrick and General Motors’ Chevrolet division are now suddenly the heavy favorites to sign Patrick. And the key would apparently be Hendrick’s willingness to put her in a Sprint Cup ride for the full 2010 season.
Roush has said he would like to see her run some NASCAR Nationwide and/or Truck events, along with six or seven Cup events, to get her accustomed to stock car racing. Hendrick reportedly is willing to go further. Patrick might take Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s spot on Hendrick’s official four-team Cup roster, with Earnhardt moving to an expanded JR Motorsports operation.
JR Motorsports, Earnhardt’s own operation, run in partnership with Hendrick, would thus be stepping up to a full Cup program; Hendrick has already been talking with Talladega winner Brad Keselowski about Keselowski’s future in NASCAR, with indications he could get a Cup ride with an expanded JR Motorsports venture, with Hendrick engines and Hendrick engineering. It is not clear how far along any Patrick-IMG-Hendrick negotiations have gone, but sources tell mikemulhern.net that the Patrick-Hendrick deal is very close to being a ‘done deal.’