Michael Andretti already thinking about home win at Pocono

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The IZOD IndyCar Series won’t make its inaugural visit to the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway until July, but that’s not stopping IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti from thinking about settling unfinished business at the “Tricky Triangle.”

“That’s one race I never won,” he told Chuck Curley of the Evening Sun of Hanover, Pennsylvania late last week. “It really ticks me off, to be honest with you. I should have won a couple of times, but I just had bad luck.”

The son of Mario made six starts at Pocono in his driving career, but was unable to take the checkered flag at the Pennsylvania oval. However, he’ll have four chances to finally earn a Pocono win this summer through his Andretti Autosport driving roster of reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and E.J. Viso.

With the quirky mile at Nazareth Speedway now returning to the Earth, Pocono represents the new home turf for the Andrettis — and as any athlete will tell you, there’s nothing better than a big win at home.

As for his team’s expansion to a four-car program with the addition of Viso, Andretti is hopeful that the move will pay off.

“I think, also adding E.J., we’re going to have another shot at winning races,” he also said to the Evening Sun. “He’s a guy that’s ready to break out. He’s shown he can be very quick, but hopefully in the right situation, he can really show what he has. We’re going to give him that.”

Last October’s announcement of the Pocono round was met with largely positive response and will revive the track’s past links to open-wheel racing. Pocono hosted USAC and CART events from 1971 to 1989, with winners in that run including legends such as A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr., Mark Donahue and Johnny Rutherford.

Danica Patrick to sign off driving career at 2018 Indy 500

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With her full-time career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now coming to an end, following the end of the 2017 season this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Danica Patrick is embarking on a new path in 2018 with the two biggest 500-mile races in North America.

Patrick confirmed plans to participate in North America’s most marquee 500-mile races, the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, during a press conference today in Miami. A team for the Indianapolis 500 has not been determined, and her options for the Daytona 500 are limited to NASCAR teams with three or fewer full-time cars, because a four-car full-time team cannot enter a fifth for the Daytona 500.

Patrick ended her full-time career in IndyCar after 2011 to head to NASCAR. She drove 10 races in 2012 before her first full Cup season in 2013, where she won the pole for that year’s Daytona 500 and ultimately finished eighth.

Her Cup career has seen her finish between 24th and 28th in points with seven career top-10 finishes, all between sixth and 10th place. She ranks 27th heading into this week’s finale too.

It was her IndyCar career though where she first entered the national conversation after a few years of apprenticeship driving for Bobby Rahal’s Barber Dodge and Formula Atlantic teams. A fourth place finish in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 with a number of laps led launched her into the racing stratosphere and helped produce the Indianapolis 500’s biggest rating in years.

Ultimately her best finish in the ‘500 in seven starts was third place in 2009, behind Helio Castroneves and the late Dan Wheldon.

She won at Motegi, 2008, for her first and only win in IndyCar.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Team GoDaddy Dallara Honda, makes a pit stop during the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

A visibly emotional Patrick announced this was the end of her full-time driving career to kick off the press conference, but switched to her future plans once she got through the opening remarks.

Patrick “never thought” she’d do the Indianapolis 500 again but when tossing around future ideas, the concept of running both Daytona and Indianapolis came up.

“I never thought I would do it. I always thought never, but I never said never. Here I am,” she said.

“Out of my mouth came, ‘What about Indy?’ That was really the first sort of idea that got me excited. Let’s do it. I called Haley (Moore, longtime PR rep). What did I just say I would do? She said, ‘Hell yes that’s a good idea.’

“I’m still surprised.”

Patrick will need to participate in the Indianapolis 500 refresher program for drivers that aren’t full-time drivers, so that will provide her a couple hours additional track time before practice opens to the full field in mid-May.

The new 2018 Dallara universal body kit comes into being this year too, and Patrick thinks she has improved as a driver over the last six seasons to be able to come back.

“(Going) 240… it’ll be no problem,” she deadpanned. “It’ll take a bit of adjusting. It’s different for sure. But I think I’m a better driver now. It’ll take a bit of acclimating. Yeah, I would like to get in a car before I get to Indy.”

Patrick said running the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 “could” occur with her same teams she last ran with full-time, Stewart-Haas Racing and Andretti Autosport, respectively. But her options remain open for both.