The audience, 5.5 million viewers in 2017, and the payout -- reportedly $2.5 million for the winner last year with a total purse topping $13.2 million -- gives part-time drivers, such as Patrick, a chance to find an organization that's willing to invest the money needed for a single race.
The Daytona 500 has an even larger total purse -- reportedly $18 million total in 2015, the last season NASCAR released money totals for each race. But with that race just a little more than a month away -- practices begin Feb. 10 -- the window is closing.
It's been nearly two months since Patrick announced Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Raceway that the 2018 Daytona 500 and Indy 500 would close out her racing career and the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season would be her last as a full-time driver. Now the Ford Ecoboost 400 two days later may end up being the final race of her career.
-- Early this week, Patrick said that finding a ride for either race was taking longer than anticipated. Motorsport.com's Tom Errington also indicated that her options for Daytona appear limited, with "leading" NASCAR Cup teams ruling out offering her cars for the 500.
"With the teams that I'm going to race for -- or team -- in NASCAR and IndyCar, I'm pushing politely, but you can't make these things happen," she said.
-- Another potential Indy 500 team for Patrick, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, ruled itself out this week for both her and Juan Pablo Montoya, team co-owner Sam Schmidt told Autosport SPM.
"We haven't really had any conversations about it, I know she's talked to a few teams," Schmidt said. "We kind of evaluate it as too much of a distraction with all the fanfare and everything that goes along with it."
-- One racing writer has offered one unusual scenario that would allow Patrick to get a ride in the Indy 500. Robin Miller wrote last month on Racer.com that IndyCar might pick up the tab.
"I'm starting to think she threw the idea out there without having a sponsor lined up," Miller wrote. "So right now I'd say her best shot is if IndyCar picks up the tab, because it definitely wants her in the show."
-- Patrick is moving into the next phase of her life.
That included breaking up with her boyfriend, NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a spokesperson confirmed last month. The couple had dated since 2013.
She has been busy promoting her fitness book, "Pretty Intense," which became available Dec. 26, with live television appearances, a media blitz and a book signing last week in south Charlotte.
"I've been doing different things and talking about different things, it's like a fresh start, almost, with my career," said Patrick, who turns 36 in March. "Cooking on TV with recipes I wrote, going on TV wearing workout clothes ... it's so different. It has been fun to do something different."
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