|Danica Patrick smiles while being interviewed after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 last weekend. (REUTERS/Geoff Miller)
INDIANAPOLIS -- It could be that the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday will be the last for Danica Patrick.
Patrick admitted in the past it “was possible” she could switch to NASCAR stock car racing full time in the 2012 season.
And late Tuesday ESPN.com reported a contract is already in place that would see her racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the entire schedule next season.
Patrick’s contract with Andretti Autosport ends at the conclusion of the 2011 season, as does her part-time NASCAR deal with JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
She will start her seventh Indy 500 on Sunday. She is the only woman to ever lead a lap in the race.
While her first foray into NASCAR in 2010 was hardly a success, this season she has improved dramatically, including a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Speculation is that she will stay with JRM, where she has a very good relationship with Earnhardt and crew chief Tony Eury Jr.
Further speculation has Patrick moving up to do some Sprint Cup races as well in 2012, but the problem if she stays with JRM is that the parent team — Hendrick Motorsports — has no seats available in its Cup program.
In an earlier interview at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Patrick said she still hadn’t made up her mind on where her future was headed.
“I haven’t made any of those decisions, yet,” she said.