Patrick skipping Indy 500, will race in Coca-Cola 600 instead
Danica Patrick became a worldwide sensation as a rookie at the Indianapolis 500, challenging for victory and becoming the first woman to lead laps in the showcase race.
Those Indy days are fading fast.
Patrick's shift to stock cars is long under way and her ties to IndyCar were cut even further Monday — she said she won't run in this year's Indy 500. Her focus is entirely on NASCAR, and on May 27 she'll race in the Coca-Cola 600. She said skipping the Indy 500 was a "business decision."
"I hope to do it in the future, the Indy 500 that is, and maybe it will be a double," she said. "But at this point in time, after a lot of conversations, it's just going to be the Coke 600 and I think it's going to be a big challenge. It just is something that didn't work out, as far as the business side of things. ... For this year, it just didn't happen."
Patrick led 19 laps late and finished fourth in 2005. She was a career-best third in 2009.
When she jumped full time to NASCAR she said the Indy 500 was still under consideration. Her NASCAR season includes the full second-tier Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports and 10 races in the elite Sprint Cup Series for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Patrick had previously announced eight of her races. The Coca-Cola 600 — Patrick jokingly called NASCAR's longest event of the season "The Coke 6,000," — is the ninth announced race. The Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 are both May 27.
"We didn't tell her she couldn't run the 500. It was left up to her," team co-owner We still have one more game to go Tony Stewart said. "It shows how dedicated she is to making this transition."
Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti have all tried to run both events on the same day. Stewart, NASCAR's three-time champion, completed the double twice: In 1999, he was ninth at Indy and fourth at Charlotte, and in 2001, he was sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.
He's not tried Indianapolis since, and has let go of his childhood dream of winning the 500. He has twice won the Brickyard 400, NASCAR's race at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The hard part for me was you make that decision when you sign up to do (NASCAR)," Stewart said. "The decision you make, you have to come to peace with yourself with saying 'I'm not going to do this.' That was my childhood dream anyway. It may be a different scenario and feeling for her. But it was hard knowing when I signed that (NASCAR) contract that I was writing off the opportunity to go race at Indy.
"It's figuring out at the end of the day what do you really want to do. I guess that's the part that even though it was hard to watch opening day of practice at Indianapolis, I'm enjoying what I'm doing, too, and this is what I want to do at the end of the day," he continued. "It makes you want 30-hour days and 400-day years and we always want to do more than what we're capable of doing, but the reality is you have to pick at some point and choose your career path. This is what I've done and what she's doing now."
Oregon's Kelly turns down NFL's Bucs
Oregon Coach Chip Kelly announced Monday that he's remaining with the Ducks, though he says he was flattered by the interest shown in him by the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I enjoyed meeting with the Glazer family and General Manager Mark Dominik, but after numerous discussions, I concluded that I have some unfinished business to complete at the University of Oregon," Kelly said in a statement released through the school.
The Bucs are searching for a new head coach after firing Raheem Morris after finishing last in the NFC South.
Kelly is 34-6 at Oregon and has won three conference titles in three seasons. He led the Ducks to a 45-38 victory over Wisconsin in this year's Rose Bowl, their first Rose Bowl win in 95 years, and also guided Oregon to a berth in the 2011 BCS championship game, where the Ducks lost to Auburn.
Astros might be be in for name change
New Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is considering changing the name of the franchise as well as its uniforms.
Crane said Monday the team will conduct a study to decide whether or not to switch the name.
"We're going to study the information both from the fans and from all sorts of marketing people," Crane said. "I'm not saying we're going to change. We haven't made the decision yet whether we're going to change."
The team was established in 1962 as the Colt .45s and has been called the Astros since 1965 when it was changed to coincide with the move to the Astrodome.
Crane said switching uniforms is something they are "highly considering." Any changes wouldn't happen until 2013 when Houston makes the move from the National League to the American League.
"We had the Colt .45s and everybody liked that one," Crane said. "So you can imagine how upset they were when we switched that. What you get when you look at the fan base is the older we get and I'm old, you don't like to change. But the younger fans are very receptive to change and the older ones aren't, so that's what we saw with the American League."
The Astros name is a nod to Houston's role in the space program as the site of NASA's Mission Control. Aerospace is a major industry in the metropolitan area, but now that the space shuttle program has ended, the city may be less likely to base its identity on the space program. Still, Crane wanted to make clear that no decisions have been made yet.
"We haven't said we're going to do that, so don't jump to any conclusions," he said of a possible name change. "Sometimes change is good."
Rangers sign Green to minor-league deal
Right-hander Sean Green and left-hander Mitch Stetter agreed to minor-league contracts with the Texas Rangers that include invitations to major-league spring training. Green and Stetter were on Milwaukee's opening-day roster last season, but didn't pitch for the NL Central champion Brewers after mid-May.
Green, who starred at Male High School and the University of Louisville, was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 14 appearances before being designated for assignment. He spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Nashville, where he had a 3.91 ERA in 33 relief appearances, then had four saves and a 1.37 ERA in 15 appearances for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
Ovechkin gets three-game suspension
Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin was suspended for three games for a charging incident in which he launched himself to hit Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek during Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins. The incident occurred at 4:05 of the second period. No penalty was assessed on the play.
Ovechkin had a goal and two assists in the game for Washington, which trails Florida by one point in the Southeast Division. He will eligible to return on Feb. 4 against Montreal.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Ovechkin will forfeit $154,677.75.
The last word
A double-shot of T? It'll cost you. The Colonial Athletic Association hit UNC Wilmington basketball coach Buzz Peterson with a one-game suspension after refs whistled him for back-to-back technical fouls in a loss to Drexel. Said Peterson:
"If I'd have gotten a technical foul in the first half and maybe got one 10 minutes later, that's one thing. But to get them within four seconds. ... Heck, I was still on the same sentence."