INDIANAPOLIS -- Even as Danica Patrick answered questions about her chances in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, Indy Car's most famous driver said Thursday that she remained open to a future in NASCAR.
Patrick, who will start 10th Sunday, said she will listen to offers from any NASCAR teams interested in signing her, but reiterated, "this is my home" referring to the Indy Car Series. Her contract with Andretti Green Racing (AGR) is up at the end of the season and speculation has put her everywhere from NASCAR to Formula One to returning to the championship AGR organization.
"It's a contract year and I'm going to look at everything," Patrick said. "I will look at NASCAR."
Patrick, 27, said she can't begin negotiations until June. And when asked during Thursday's annual Indy 500 Media Day at the Speedway if she was courting offers, Patrick smiled and said, "I'm not bringing it up, I'm not slipping it into conversations. .. I'm purely answering questions that people are asking me."
"I'm being very honest," she said. I'm going to check it all out. I guess I'm a little more honest about it than I was last time (she went through contract negotiations) but I'm also more open to it than last time."
A year ago, Patrick became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race, earning her only IndyCar Series victory at Motegi, Japan. Her stardom was already rooted well before she actually won, however.
She first became a household name after a stunning 2005 debut here at the ultra-tough Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She won Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors, led 19 laps -- the first woman to every lead the 500 -- and her fourth place starting position and fourth place finishing position are the best ever by a woman.
Magazine covers, red carpets, worldwide media attention and massive souvenir sales followed, making her one of the hottest racing commodities in the world.
Driver Danica Patrick (C) lines up with the 2009 Indianapolis 500 race field in New York May 18, 2009. The 33 drivers, in Race Day uniform with helmets, posed in the traditional Indy 500 lineup - 11 rows of three - for a photo in Herald Square. REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES TRANSPORT)
Danica Patrick, center, poses for a picture with other Indy 500 drivers in New York, Monday, May 18, 2009. Patrick is in the tenth position for the Indianapolis 500, which will be on May 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
NEW YORK - MAY 18: D anica Patrick, driver of the #7 Motorola Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda lines up with all 33 IndyCar drivers for photos in the traditional Indianapolis 500 line up in Herald Square on May 18, 2009 in New York City. The drivers came to New York to promote the Indianapolis 500 which is the fourth race on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Danica Patrick
The starting drivers for the Indianapolis 500 auto race are shown after they qualified at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 9, 2009. Row 1: Helio Castroneves, of Brazil; Ryan Briscoe, of Australia; Dario Franchitti, of Scotland. Row 2: Graham Rahal; Scott Dixon, of New Zealand; Tony Kanaan, of Brazil. Row 3: Mario Moraes, of Brazil; Marco Andretti; Will Power, of Australia. Row 4: Danica Patrick; Alex Lloyd, of England; Raphael Matos, of Brazil. (AP Photos/Dave Parker)
Tony Kanaan, right, of Brazil, talks with teammate Danica Patrick during practice on the final day of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Tom Strickland)
Danica Patrick, leads, Alex Lloyd, of England, into the first turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Friday, May 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick signs autographs for young fans before practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis May 14, 2009. The Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 24. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES SPORT MOTOR RACING)
Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick (L) listens to her car owner Michael Andretti as they talk in the pit lane during practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis May 14, 2009. The Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 24. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES SPORT MOTOR RACING)
Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick talks with her car owner Michael Andretti (R) near her car during practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis May 14, 2009. The Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 24. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES SPORT MOTOR RACING)
IRL driver Danica Patrick dons her helmet as she prepares to practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Thursday, May 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Tom Strickland)
Speculation that she would leave for NASCAR also followed, heating up during her last contract negotiation in 2006, although she never had an actual offer from a NASCAR Sprint Cup team.
Patrick said she would even consider starting out in a developmental league -- like NASCAR's triple-A Nationwide Series, but "I can honestly say, I would rather just do the Sprint Cup.
"I'm also not the professional in that area and if that's the route we go, I would trust the professionals as to what to do.
"My view is, from when I was 16 years old and was able to start racing cars, I said, 'To heck with it, I'm not going to be a professional go-kart racer, so let's get on with it.' "
It's unclear if a win in Sunday's Indy 500 would make Patrick more likely to leave the open-wheel ranks or more likely to stay. But clearly, the ball's in her court.
"What it's going to come down to is, what are my options team-wise?" Patrick said. "Who wants me to come back? And what's going to give me the best opportunity to win races and have fun?