Danica Patrick stays in IndyCar but NASCAR door still open

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Danica Patrick left the door open to racing part-time in NASCAR on Tuesday after confirming a three-year deal to stay with Andretti Autosport in the IndyCar series.

Patrick is the biggest name in American open-wheel racing, and the first woman to win an IndyCar race. Her decision to remain with Michael Andretti's team is welcome news for that championship.

IndyCar, though, will probably have to share her with NASCAR as she pursues her dream of competing in the hugely popular stock car series.

During a teleconference to discuss her contract extension with Andretti, Patrick said that talks had continued with various NASCAR teams but no contracts had been signed.

"It's no mystery I'm curious about NASCAR and would like to do it," said Patrick. "If I had a chance to run in both series and try it and challenge myself I would like to do it.

"We're serious about this but whether or not things will come together we don't know.

"There's no deal right now but if I can do both I would like to do that."

Michael Andretti said he would not stand in Patrick's way if she were able to work out a NASCAR deal but made it clear her first focus would be winning an IndyCar championship and the Indianapolis 500.

"I support her if she wants to try," said Andretti. "First and foremost she is a race car driver and I've been there.

"You always want to challenge yourself and for her to go and give it a try, I don't want to get in her way if she really wants to do that.

"But we'll have to work the programmes to make sure that IndyCar is still her main focus because the main goal is to win Indianapolis (500) and a championship with Danica."

If Patrick is to test the NASCAR waters it is likely to be around her Indy car schedule.

The IndyCar season opens on March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and ends on October 2 at Homestead, Florida.

"The primary focus is IndyCar and the Indy 500 but in and around that there is opportunity to run other cars as well," said Patrick, who came third at last year's Indy 500, the best finish by a woman at the Brickyard.

"The focus is to run before and after the IndyCar season, that is the best opportunity."

(Writing by Steve Keating in Calgary; editing by Alan Baldwin and John Mehaffey)