ST. PETERSBURG — Danica Patrick is in her sixth season of IndyCar racing and has only a month of NASCAR experience, but as the IRL adds more street-course racing to its schedule, that decision could play a role in Patrick's future in racing.
"I don't think it's the greatest place for us to display excitement for the fans," Patrick said after a practice session Friday. "I just think we aren't as exciting as we could be on the road courses."
St. Petersburg was the first street race in IndyCar series history in 2005. The sixth edition of the local race is Sunday with action on the track beginning Friday. This year's 17-race schedule includes nine non-oval races.
Patrick said the lack of competition from different manufacturers has made the IndyCars too much alike, making it difficult to pass in the tight constraints of a street course.
"People like to talk about the glory days of (open-wheel racing) when there was a whole bunch of street courses and road courses, and there was also the days of multiple manufacturers all over the place. There was some separation between people. Now you just don't have that. It's all the same. It's very difficult to be faster than someone else."
Patrick said she's thinking not of herself but of the league's future when she talks about more oval racing for the IRL.
"At the end of the day if people stop watching us, then no sponsors are going to go on the cars and there'll be no cars to go around the track," she said.
Changes: Veteran racegoers might notice some differences around the track.
The row of yachts normally lined up along the waterfront is missing. The yachts that are there are the ones from the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. A concession contract was not renewed, eliminating the yacht arrangement and the need for a pedestrian bridge to the water side of the course.
Also, a beer garden near the pit entrance is a new addition.