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IndyCar seems to be the place for Danica Patrick

She qualifies 11th for the Grand Prix of Sonoma, then says NASCAR isn't likely next year.

August 23, 2009|Jim Peltz

SONOMA, CALIF. — Danica Patrick said Saturday that there's more than a 50% chance she will forgo NASCAR and remain an IndyCar driver with the Andretti Green Racing team next year.

"Things are definitely moving forward with AGR," she said in an interview after qualifying 11th for today's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.

"We're not to paper yet, but verbally I think things are going in the right direction" with Andretti Green, she said.

Patrick, 27, is the IndyCar Series' most popular driver, and last year she became the first woman to win a major U.S.-sanctioned open-wheel race.

But with her current contract with Andretti Green expiring this year, she was considering switching to NASCAR stock car racing next year.

"That's still out there," Patrick said. "It's still possible that I could run some of that. Nothing is decided yet."

Recently proposed corporate changes at Andretti Green -- in particular that Michael Andretti would wholly own Patrick's racing operation -- have made the team more appealing to her, said Patrick, whose leaning toward AGR was reported Saturday by SI.com.

"I like some of the changes that have gone on within the team, I like Mike taking more charge, more control over what he thinks should happen," Patrick said. "Conversations have just gone well."

Dario Franchitti won the pole position for today's race, followed by Penske Racing teammates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves, the defending winner of the Sonoma race.

"Feeling good heading into tomorrow," Franchitti said after posting the fastest lap of 107.955 mph on the 12-turn, 2.30-mile Infineon course.

Scott Dixon, the reigning series champion and this year's points leader as well, qualified 10th. "We just really struggled," especially with braking problems, said Dixon, who won at Infineon in 2007.

Dixon begins today's race with a slim three-point lead over Briscoe in the title hunt and a 20-point advantage over Franchitti, Dixon's teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

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Practice crash

Will Power and Nelson Philippe will miss today's race after being injured in a crash during practice Saturday.

Power broke two vertebrae in his lower back, Philippe suffered a broken left foot and both had concussions, said IndyCar spokesman John Griffin, adding that the drivers were being treated at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

The crash started just past Turn 3 when Philippe spun and came to rest while still on the track. The turn features a slight crest and Philippe stopped just past, or below, that crest.

Another driver, E.J. Viso, then came over the crest and clipped the front wheels off Philippe's car, and moments later Power followed and also slammed into Philippe's car, littering the track with debris.

Philippe, driving for Conquest Racing, was attempting to make his first start at Infineon Raceway in the IndyCar Series.

Power, 28, also drives for Penske and won at Edmonton last month for his first IndyCar Series victory.

The Australian previously had driven in the Champ Car World Series and won that series' finale race -- the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach -- before the series was absorbed by IndyCar last year.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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IRL today

GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA

2 p.m., Versus

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