Just about everywhere you look on the World Wide Web sports sites these days, there’s a story about Danica Patrick.
A month or so ago, the news was that she’d re-upped with Michael Andretti’s Indy car team for the next three years and there was a rider in her new contract that would allow her to run some NASCAR races.
Although there was no official announcement, it was pretty much accepted as gospel that this was true. The guys who reported it initially know their stuff. The information might have come from "sources," but often the "sources" are the people involved.
In any event, there soon followed a flurry of stories that, as a result of her new Indy car deal, she’d reached agreement with NASCAR’s Rick Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to drive some Nationwide Series races for Earnhardt’s team. In fact, Hendrick said as much on several occasions.
But then, over the weekend when the Cup series was in Phoenix, both Earnhardt and Hendrick went to great lengths to throw cold water on the story. No deal, they both said. Probably not going to be a deal either, they added.
Now, the one person who hasn't been doing any talking about any of this is Danica Patrick herself. Which has got some people perplexed. Newspaper columnists and bloggers have all wondered: What’s with Danica? Why won’t she say something? Why won’t she say anything?
The reason is simple: she can’t. To understand why, let me tell you a little story about Paul Tracy.
In 2002, while under contract to Barry Green and partners in Team Green (also known as Team KOOL Green), Tracy reached agreement with Imperial Tobacco to continue in the CART Series and to drive for Forsythe Racing in 2003.
At the time, Michael Andretti and Barry Green’s partners were in the process of purchasing Team Green from Barry Green and they planned to move it to the Indy Racing League. They thought Tracy would make the move with them and were unhappy (to put it mildly) to learn he was going elsewhere.
As a result, he was ordered to keep his mouth shut about any plans he might have for 2003. It’s my understanding he was told that he was under contract until the end of the year and if he said one word about not driving for what would be called Andretti-Green Racing in the IRL in 2003 that the resulting lawsuit would break him financially.
So Paul Tracy kept quiet. Very quiet.
Something similar is happening with Danica, you can bet.
She’s under contract to Andretti-Green Racing until at least the end of the year. But that team is breaking up, in that Michael Andretti is reportedly in the process of becoming sole owner of the Indy racing team and his partners are reportedly in the process of becoming sole owners of the Andretti-Green promotions business (the races in Toronto and St. Petersburg).
The people who are knee-deep in these complicated transactions are not keen to have racing drivers in their employ shooting off their mouths about this and that and this and that. So Danica Patrick has undoubtedly been told (just like Paul Tracy before her) to button up.
So until everything is signed, sealed and delivered, or her current contract runs out, whichever comes first, you can bet you won’t hear one peep from Danica Patrick.
(By the way, she lives in Phoenix and you’d have expected that she’d have shown up at that NASCAR race on Sunday, wouldn’t you? But no, she wasn’t anywhere around, which was the smart thing.)
And those NASCAR guys? Saying one thing one week and another thing the next? Ah, they’re just havin’ fun, stirring the pot and driving certain people crazy. They know what the deal is. They’re just sticking in the needle.