ESPN.com, citing anonymous sources, is reporting that Danica Patrick’s management team is working on a deal that would bring her to NASCAR full time in the Nationwide Series in 2012. She would also race in select Sprint Cup events in 2012, with an eye on making the switch to the Cup series full time in 2013.
As part of the rumored deal, Patrick would be allowed to compete in the 2012 Indianapolis 500. No details were given about the team for which she would drive. GoDaddy.com, her current sponsor in both the IndyCar Series and the Nationwide Series, is expected to stay with her, should she decide to move to NASCAR full time.
She is currently under contract with Andretti Autosport in IndyCar and JR Motorsports in Nationwide, but both of those contracts expire at the end of the year.
Tony Stewart, owner of Stewart Haas Racing, expressed an interest in signing Patrick to drive one of his Chevys, though he said he has not had discussions with her about bringing her to SHR in the Cup Series. He would not field a Nationwide team for her.
Meanwhile, Patrick has denied that her agents are working on a full time NASCAR deal for her.
Regardless of whether or not you love or hate Patrick, you can’t argue with the way she has attempted to enter NASCAR. Nearly two years ago, I wrote that Patrick should enter NASCAR the right way. I wrote:
I think that if she decides to move into NASCAR, she should go through the ARCA series. There, she can cut her teeth in stock car racing, and get familiar with the skills and terminology it takes to be successful. She needs to learn how to muscle one of these stock cars around a track. That’s no easy task for someone 5’2” and 100 lbs. She also needs to get seat time at NASCAR sanctioned tracks. And, if the testing ban remains in place if/when she makes the jump, that will be hard to do without starting in one of the smaller series.
But, realistically, Patrick couldn’t start in ARCA because of her name and marketability. Last September I wrote:
Having Patrick run in the ARCA Series does benefit her, but it doesn’t do much for GoDaddy.com. They don’t see a large immediate return on their investment, and they don’t get as much media exposure through Patrick. … To GoDaddy.com, seeing Patrick run in the 30s in Nationwide Series gains much more exposure than Patrick running well in the ARCA Series. And that’s why, despite the benefits for Patrick as a race car driver, she didn’t start in the ARCA Series.
Still, Patrick has made 19 career stock car starts, including 17 starts in Nationwide, one start in ARCA, and one in the K&N Pro East Series. If the rumor is true, she’ll run a full season in Nationwide before making the switch to Cup in 2013, and she’ll probably run seven races in the Cup series in 2012 so she can still be eligible for Rookie of the Year in 2013.
She’s expected to make nine more starts this season for JRM, which would put her at 28 stock car starts before entering N’Wide full time, which would put her at 62 stock car starts before she attempts Cup full time. For comparison purposes, Tony Stewart made 36 N’Wide starts and one Camping World Truck Series start before debuting in Cup in 1999. Juan Montoya made two ARCA starts and four N’Wide starts before moving to Cup full time in 2007.
So, say what you want about whether or not Patrick deserves to be in NASCAR, but she’s at least trying to make her way into the sport the right way.