Is Danica Behind The Split At AGR?
The announcement that Andretti-Green Racing was splitting, re-organizing, re-structuring or whatever they want to call it; was just a matter of days before reports began to surface that Danica Patrick would more than likely re-sign with the team that has employed her since the 2007 season.
I am not a conspiracy theorist. I consider myself to be fairly well-grounded and don’t buy into a lot of pop-culture theories. I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I don’t believe that George W. Bush or the CIA engineered 9/11. I think Elvis died in 1977 and I don’t believe that Michael Jackson is still alive today.
With all that being said, I am a little suspicious in the timing of these two events at AGR. All summer long, we were led to believe that Ms. Patrick would be headed elsewhere. At first, the possibility of her bolting to NASCAR kept hanging over our collective heads. Then the rumors were flying that she would be headed to a third car at Chip Ganassi’s team. Michael Andretti was given little, if any, hope of re-signing the marketing star.
Robin Miller first reported a couple of weeks ago that Michael Andretti and his partners, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, were splitting. Last week an official announcement came that explained that Michael Andretti would be handling the racing side of the company, while Green and Savoree would be taking over the operations of Andretti-Green Promotions – the division that promotes the races for St. Petersburg and Toronto. Both divisions would become separate entities to be renamed after the current season.
Oddly enough, on the heels of that announcement comes the rumor that Andretti and Patrick are suddenly close to striking a deal. In fact, Curt Cavin reported in Tuesday’s Indianapolis Star that Michael involved Danica in the discussions to streamline AGR by buying out Green and Savoree. Michael was quoted later in the article as saying he will not be sharing ownership with anyone, including Patrick. Hmmm…
This smells of a power play by Danica. I’m merely speculating here. I have no real facts to work from, so don’t everybody start saying I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll do it for you. But if you add two and two together, it’s not always difficult to come up with four. If Danica were not going to receive partial ownership of the new company, then why on earth would she be involved in the discussions? It sounds to me like Danica had gravitated to Michael’s side and presented her own bargaining chip. Perhaps she said she would stay if Green and Savoree were no longer part of the equation.
Does Danica have a beef with Kim Green and Kevin Savoree? Kim Green seems to be very “hands-on” with the team. Over the years, he is seen operating in various pits, although lately it seems like he has been working with Hideki Mutoh’s team. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t know Kevin Savoree if he were to walk into my house in a 7-Eleven firesuit. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a picture of the man, and I know less about his function with the team. But the fact that the two of them are splitting away from Michael, tells me that there may be some personality conflicts with Danica. Perhaps Green and Savoree didn’t want to re-sign her, but Michael did. However, this is all strictly conjecture on my part.
Danica has obviously benefited from having Michael serve as her race strategist this season. She has not ever been a threat to win all season, but she has consistently run up front and usually brings her equipment home in one piece. In fact, the only two times I can think of her having an incident were both caused by over-zealous rookies – Raphael Matos collided with her and took both of them into the fence at St. Pete and Mike Conway punted her into the gravel pit at Mid-Ohio. Otherwise, she has kept her nose clean and it’s reflected by her fifth place in the standings.
But a fifth place driver with only one win on their resume normally doesn’t wield the kind of power to order an entire team to be restructured around them. That is, unless they are Danica Patrick. I get it that Danica is a marketing empire unto herself. I also understand the ramifications were she to bolt for NASCAR. But if that is what truly happened, that’s just not right. It’s a true sign of the tail wagging the dog. It reminds me of the time in 1981, when a young Magic Johnson essentially had L.A. Lakers coach Paul Westhead fired in favor of assistant coach Pat Riley. It worked out for Johnson, Riley and the Lakers, but it still caused quite a stir at the time for ANY player to hold that much power on a team.
It sounds like Danica had wisely sought out the advice of other drivers whether or not to give NASCAR a serious look. All signs point to everyone telling her she should stay put in the IndyCar Series. After that decision was behind her, indications were that she was going to sign with Ganassi. I wonder if she started worrying about her legacy and her ability to produce at Ganassi. So long as she stayed at AGR, she could blame her failure to win consistently on the team that has under-achieved this season. However, if she went to a championship level organization like Ganassi and failed to achieve results similar to those of her teammates, then the blame must fall on her.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was considered a sympathetic figure as he toiled away at DEI without winning. Everyone blamed the team. Now that he has moved over to Hendrick Motorsports with the same lack of results, he is looked upon as an under-performing driver. The same could happen with Danica at Ganassi. Say what you will about Danica Patrick, but she is not stupid. She is quite savvy and is very aware of her image and marketing potential – for today and in the distant future, when her driving days are behind her. Tarnishing her legacy today harms the earning potential for tomorrow.
Again – this is pure speculation on my part, which is something that I don’t always do. But it seems that drama has a habit of following Ms. Patrick. It also seems quite coincidental that the formation of two separate companies and the acknowledgement from both sides that a re-signing of Danica is eminent, were just days apart. I would be surprised if I am wrong.