Danica Patrick enters final year of contract but wants to stay at Stewart-Haas


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Car owner Gene Haas confirmed Tuesday that this is the final year of Danica Patrick’s three-year contract with Stewart-Haas Racing, but both Haas and Patrick want to extend that partnership.

“We would love to see Danica come back,’’ Haas said during the NASCAR Sprint Cup media tour. “We want to see Danica succeed as much as anybody does. I think NASCAR wants to see her succeed. So there’s an awful lot of vested interest to have Danica succeed in this man’s sport.’’

Patrick finished 28th in the points last year, her second full year in the Sprint Cup series, but said she made progress. Her best finish was sixth at Atlanta. It was one of three top-10 finishes she had last year.

“Stewart-Haas is an amazing team,’’ Patrick said. “It’s been the closest thing to family. Most every team says it’s family. Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, but at Stewart-Haas for me it’s felt like that and they care.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a sponsor like GoDaddy and have the faith of the people around me that I could really name the team I wanted to drive for, and Tony (Stewart) and Gene made it happen, and GoDaddy made it happen. I didn’t even want to run anywhere else. I didn’t pick to run anywhere else – and I still don’t. I believe in what they do and the hard work they put in and their philosophies and the way they take care of each other.’’

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.