A hot but unconfirmed rumor has been circulating in the paddock at Phoenix International Raceway, scene of this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. Andretti Autosport has scheduled a Media Conference for Friday noon to announce plans for its fifth entry for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 race. The open secret is that it will be Townsend Bell. Andretti Autosport runs four Hondas for the entire season – Carlos Munoz/No.26, Marco Andretti/No.27, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28, and Rookie Alexander Rossi/No.98 with Brian Herta.
Andretti Team Manager, Rob Edwards, has been quoted as saying there will be no more than five Andretti entries at Indy. However, insiders say that a deal has already been done for another entry, which will be announced Saturday simultaneously in Phoenix and Martinsville, via the magic of satellite TV.
Danica Patrick, currently racing NASCAR Sprint Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing, is going to “Do The Double” on Memorial Day. She’ll run the Indianapolis 500, as well as the NASCAR Coca Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Patrick will run a sixth car with her former team, Andretti Autosport – a Honda team, with sponsorship from Nature’s Bakery.
“Our involvement with NASCAR has proven successful,” Nature’s Bakery founder Dave Marson said. “Our relationship with Danica Patrick was a natural fit given her athletic lifestyle. She has proven that she has the ‘energy for life’s great journeys.’ I thought she and IndyCar could bring our brand that has an active and healthy lifestyle into a family oriented arena: this iconic race – The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Patrick is well-known for her athleticism and healthy physical training regimen, and has already increased her workouts.
Patrick, who raced indycars from 2005 through 2011, has unfinished business at the Indy 500. After starting twenty-fifth in 2011, she was leading when she ran out of fuel and finished tenth.
Patrick’s Cup team has two teammates who have already done the Memorial Day Double: boss, Tony Stewart in 1999 and 2001, and teammate, Kurt Busch, who drove for Andretti Autosport in 2014. Stewart is the only driver who has successfully completed both races (both years.) In 1999, he finished ninth at Indy-not on the lead lap, and fourth at Charlotte. In 2001, he made history by completing all 1100 miles and finished on the lead lap in each – sixth in the Indy 500 and third in the Charlotte 600. Stewart is presently sidelined from his driving duties while recuperating from his off-road accident in January. He has yet to drive in what he says is his last year in NASCAR Cup racing.
Although Patrick currently drives a Chevrolet in NASCAR, and has driven Chevrolets throughout her stock car career, her SHR team is switching to Ford next season. “(Driving a Chevy my whole career) is just a matter of what happened. It’s not because I said ‘I want to drive a Chevy’ or ‘I want to drive a Ford’ or ‘I want to drive a Toyota’. It has nothing to do with that. It’s about the team and the people involved and I think that Tony’s done a great job of getting people involved that are great and that create successful teams.
“I haven’t been involved in a manufacturer change in a team before, so I don’t have experience, but I’m sure the team will do everything they can to minimize any transition time and to only improve performance.”
Patrick’s Double plans were facilitated by JMI, which has a strategic partnership with Nature’s Bakery for Patrick’s NASCAR sponsorship. JMI also has strategic partnerships with Andretti Autosport and hhgregg for sponsorship on Marco Andretti’s No.27 Honda.
Now, if you’ve followed this so far, and still are a believer, I have a bridge in Arizona for sale.