Chip Ganassi has admitted to having held talks with Danica Patrick amid speculation linking the IndyCar star to the current series champions.
Speaking at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team competes on Sunday nine years after he won the Indianapolis 500 with Juan Pablo Montoya, Ganassi confirmed his interest in hiring Patrick to drive for his team in 2010, as her current contract with Andretti Green Racing expires at the end of the season.
"If I told you I didn't have any conversation about that or I wasn't interested in that I'd be lying to you," Ganassi said. "Like a lot of teams we've had discussions and she's on the market right now and she's ready to make the next step on her career whatever that takes her.
"I wish I could tell you I'm a lot further down the road on that but I think the fact of the matter is, like most other teams, we're in the top of the first inning on that subject and you know, to say anything more, you might characterise it as we're on the pace lap yet here. It's way early."
Ganassi is believed to be high on Patrick's list of options for 2010, although she has expressed her interest in a move to NASCAR as well. However Ganassi, who is also seeking a replacement for the outgoing Martin Truex Jr in his Sprint Cup Series team, all but denied his intention to sign Patrick to fill that void.
He revealed he has actually advised her to stay in IndyCars, as he believes she is close to taking her career in the series to the next level, adding that a move to NASCAR would still be possible for her a few years down the line.
"I think her IndyCar career, I think she's about to make a step in that career, if she decides to stay here, she's got one more step to make, that's it. And I think she's pretty close to that step," said Ganassi.
"As much as I love what's going on here this weekend, my counsel to her was, she's pretty close to making that last step in IndyCar racing and she could easily do that in the next three or four or five years and still be able to do this, so... But, I'm just one person and that's my opinion."
Ganassi also praised Patrick's IndyCar season, where she currently ranks fifth in the standings, ahead of her Andretti Green team-mates Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh.
"She's been outperforming her team-mates, which I think is a big thing at that team," Ganassi added. "She's in a good team and she's got more points than all her team-mates. That's no small feat on that team."