INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chip Ganassi said Friday he doesn’t believe he’s the right car owner to help Danica Patrick move to NASCAR, and he advised the driver to accomplish her goals in IndyCar before switching formulas.

Ganassi, who owns race teams in IndyCar, NASCAR and Grand-Am, was one of the few car owners with the ability to offer Patrick a slow transition into stock cars that also allowed her to stay in open-wheel racing. But speaking before NASCAR practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he said he’s not the right car owner for her potential move.

“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 years and still do (NASCAR),” Ganassi said. “She’s one of those athletes that she can make a lot of turns in her career today and will still be able to make other turns in the future. It’s up to her.”

Patrick is in the final year of her three-year IndyCar contract with Andretti-Green Racing, and has said she’ll wait until the end of the season to solidify her next move. But she hasn’t ruled out a move to NASCAR, a series that would give the glamour girl tremendous earning potential in both salary, sponsorship and marketing opportunities.

She’s currently fifth in the IndyCar standings, while Ganassi drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon are first and second. Ganassi said he’s only “maybe” interested in adding her to his IndyCar lineup, but isn’t tremendously interested in expanding to three cars because of the potential disruption to an operation that’s currently clicking.

Patrick initially said her NASCAR interest was primarily in moving directly to a premier Sprint Cup Series team. She’s since wavered and said she’d explore transitioning in through a lower series. She visited several NASCAR shops in North Carolina last week, including current points leader Tony Stewart’s new team.

Because Ganassi successfully eased former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya into NASCAR — in his third season, he’s currently in contention for a berth in the Chase for the championship — he potentially could help Patrick. But he’s comfortable with his five current drivers and isn’t looking to make a new hire.

“If she wanted to do NASCAR on a full-time basis, I would tell her there are better places to go and do it,” Ganassi said. “I don’t think our team is in a position to do it. It’s a real nice thing having a team of drivers that are veterans in their specific categories. That’s nothing against Danica. In these economic times, you need less variables. I don’t need more variables.”

Meanwhile, Ganassi was coy about several variables surrounding his NASCAR team, most notably the need to replace Martin Truex Jr. at the end of the season. Truex has signed with Michael Waltrip Racing for 2010. Because an undisclosed health issue sidelined Ganassi much of the last month, the car owner had been unavailable to address the opening on his race team.

He didn’t have much to offer upon his return Friday at Indy, where he unveiled a retro Target paint scheme on Montoya’s car that replicates their 2000 Indianapolis 500 winning car.

“Everybody is always worried about the seat to fill, and we’re going to fill it,” he said. “Everything is fine. I’m not going out of business, and I’m going to have two cars. You guys always ask these silly questions, I wish I had great answers for you. I’m unable to make things up. All I can tell you is we’re talking to a few guys, and I’ll tell you in due time.”

Ganassi said he expects his relationship with Theresa Earnhardt to continue next season — the two owners merged last November to create Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing — and they aren’t currently talking to new manufacturers. They have a Chevrolet deal, but all of General Motors’ funding has been reduced in the wake of its Chapter 11 restructuring.

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