They compare the possible effect on IndyCar viewing figures to what happened to golf viewership when Tiger Woods was off the tournament circuit with injuries and personal problems.
In 2008, with Woods off the circuit, golf lost about half of its audience, the Nielsen Co., which tracks television ratings, said.
Patrick could be leaving her full-time IndyCar racing job by season's end as a deal making her a full-time NASCAR driver in 2012 now appears imminent, The Indianapolis Star reported Monday.
Patrick has been mum about her intentions.
"These things come out, and I'm just as surprised as probably some other people when they see them," she said of the latest reports. "I'm still just doing my job, and that's just to drive the race car. Nothing's finalized."
IndyCar, which has struggled for TV ratings, can ill afford to have Patrick depart, analysts said.
"It's all about the [TV] numbers," said Zak Brown, head of Just Marketing International, which specializes in motor-sports sponsorship packages. "I don't think her leaving will be a showstopper for IndyCar, but for sure it will hurt."