In 2005, 23-year-old Danica Patrick qualified fourth for the Indy 500, the highest by a woman. Patrick then became the first woman to lead the Indy 500, heading the pack three times for 19 laps. She finished fourth in just her fifth IndyCar Series race and won Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors.
Patrick raced in the IndyCar Series for seven years before moving over to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, where she is in her fifth season. That also means this will be the fifth straight time Patrick is missing the Indy 500, the race that made her famous.
"It was a point of conversation the other day that it's the month of May and that was always known in my world as Indy 500 month, but it's not really the month anymore," Patrick told ThePostGame earlier this month. "Now, it's really like the two weeks of Indy or less, so you can practice, qualify, then you can do a week of media and then race. It isn't quite what it was when I first started, and even before I left, it still wasn't the whole month. I miss that. I miss the amount of time I used to spend there."
Patrick won six straight IndyCar Series Most Popular Driver Awards from 2005-2010. When she left the series, the series lost its biggest draw. Patrick lost some of her infatuation with IndyCar that originally drove her to racing.
"Maybe it had something to with the fact I was in the same place for a month, which is just not normal," Patrick says of her May Indy 500 nostalgia. "We have something similar in NASCAR now with the All-Star race and then the Coke 600, so it's two weeks in Charlotte, so it's got a similar feel to it. It's not the Indy 500, but it's still a really big race and one we all very much want to do well at."
Patrick has many more financial opportunities in her current series, compared to IndyCar, thanks to more events in NASCAR.
"I think about it, but I'm OK," Patrick says of the Indy 500. "When I made the decision to move on, I'm good. I don't think about driving IndyCars full time again. It would feel like a break, though, because going down from 38 weekends in NASCAR to maybe 15ish in IndyCar, that's a lot less. It'd probably be a lot nicer. But I'm happy where I'm at. I like the people, I like the racing in NASCAR, and would I ever do the Indy 500 [again]? I don't know. Probably not, but you never know."
What is known is Patrick will be in Charlotte this weekend for the Coca-Cola 600. Meanwhile, the Indy 500 goes on without her, and the Danica Patrick Era at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is long over.
Patrick spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of Aspen Dental, which sponsor her and Tony Stewart, her boss at Stewart-Haas Racing
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Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.