IRL Race Schedule & Results and
NASCAR Nationwide Race
Patrick sends message to fellow
NASCAR drivers. She's done talkin'.
Danica Patrick was gridded 9th, the second highest
grid all year. The race was red flagged following a
horrific crash involveing 15 drivers. Dan Weldon
lost his life and Pippa, JR Hildebrand, and
Will Power were injured. She ends the year ranked
* * *
Danica Patrick gridded at Kansas
(NASCAR Nationwide Series) and finshed on the
lead lap in 15th for 43 cars.
* * *
Danica Patrick gridded 14th at Kentucky. She
finshed in 10th and moved into the 10th spot in
championship points with one race to go.
* * *
Danica Patrick gridded 23rd at Indy Japan where
she won previously. She finshed in 11th.
* * *
Danica Patrick hopes to start Sprint Cup career
in Daytona 50
* * *
Patrick gridded 23rd at Baltimore and finished
* * *
Patrick gridded 25th at Sonoma and finished
21st, one lap down.
* * *
Patrick may do the Indy 500 next year if the
NASCAR schedules permit. However, she will be
running a full NASCAR Nationwide schedule and
probably 8 to 10 Sprint Cup races.
* * *
Earnhardt: Patrick already successful in NASCAR
She's gridded 25th at Montreal Nationwide Race.
She finished 24th.
* * *
Danica gridded 15th at New Hampshire and
finished in 6th.
* * *
Danica gridded 22nd at Edmonton and finished in
* * *
Danica started 21st and after being run into
from behind, ended up 19th in Toronto in an
accident filled race.
* * *
Danica started on the outside of the pole at
Iowa and finished 10th.
* * *
Danica started 15th at the Milwaukee Mile and
moved up 10 places to finish 5th.
* * *
Danica started 10th in Race 1 at Texas and
finished 16th. She drew the 20th spot in Race 2 and
* * *
Congrats to Danica Patrick who started 16th in
the NASCAR Nationwide Race at Chicagoland and
finished in the top 10. Racing only 5 of 14 races,
she currently ranks number 25 of 96
* * *
Danica qualified 25th for the Indy500 and lead
10 laps of the race. She had to pit late in the
race for tires and fuel and finished in the 10th
* * *
Danica was gridded 20th of 27 cars for the Long
Beach Grand Prix and finished 7th.
* * *
Danica started 22nd at Alabama. Later in the
race she gained 4 positions on a great pit stop to
take 3rd but steadily lost positions to finish
17th, next to last of the cars still running. She
currently 16th in point standings after 2
* * *
Danica started 19th at St. Pete and finished
* * *
Danica's been encouraged by preseason test
sessions as well as the confidence boost
she's received from leaving the Nationwide Series
ninth in points. Now it's back to Indy Cars for a
* * *
Danica Patrick makes history with fourth-place
finish from a 22nd place start at Las Vegas Motor
Speedway in the Nationwide Series. She keeps her
4th place position in the standings after three
* * *
Danica started 20th and finished 17th in the
second race of the season at Phoenix. After two
races, she is ranked 4th amoung Nationwide Series
* * *
Congratulations, Danica. She started 4th, later
lead one lap and finished
* * *
14th out of 43 in the Nationwide race at Daytona
She's 7th in the Standings to start out the
Patrick's 2011 Nationwide schedule finalized
Team Penalized Post Phoenix Nationwide Race
NASCAR announced today penalties and fines to the
No. 7 team (Danica Patricks team) that
competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series as a
result of rule infractions at Phoenix International
The No. 7 car was found to be in violation of
Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car
racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR
officials that the race equipment used in the event
does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20A-2.3A
(improperly attached weight) of the 2011 NASCAR
Nationwide Series rule book. The infraction
occurred during the race on Nov. 12.
As a result of the violations, crew chief Tony
Eury Jr. has been fined $10,000 and placed on
NASCAR probation until March 28, 2012.
career leaves childhood dream unfulfilled
When the checkered flag falls at Las Vegas Motor
Speedway this weekend and puts a wrap on the 2012
IZOD IndyCar Series season, it will also mark the
end of an era for INDYCAR that has seen more than
its share of ups and downs. When the 300 miles are
complete on Sunday, so too will be the full-time
INDYCAR career of Danica Patrick. Sadly, what
started with a bang in 2005 is going out with more
of a whimper in 2011.
When she burst onto the scene in 2005, Patrick
had all the looks of a star-to-be. Her
Rahal-Letterman Racing team was on top of their
game having arrived at Indianapolis in May of that
year as the defending 500 champions, and Danica had
already begun to penetrate beyond the racing world
and into mainstream media markets. When her
fourth-place finish began to overshadow the run of
500 champion Dan Wheldon, though, people
immediately wondered why she was so deserving of
all the hype. More importantly, other media outlets
began to ask the reactionary question, When
will Danica try her hand at NASCAR?
While Danicas popularity continued to soar
outside of the IZOD IndyCar Series, those who
followed the Series closely soon began to see a
very different side of Danica. Following physical
altercations with drivers at California in 2005 and
Milwaukee in 2006, in addition to her
well-publicized stomp down pit road at Michigan in
2006, many fans began to wonder if Danica was
indeed the role model that they had hoped she would
be. Frustrations and questions were only further
expounded by her continued lack of consistently
contending for race victories. More and more,
Danica Patrick appeared to become less about
INDYCAR racing and more about Danica Patrick. Even
her victory at Motegi in 2008 did little to quell
her critics, and though the Anna Kournikova
of racing label was dropped, the feeling
among many that she was more interested in
exploiting her sex appeal than her racing talents
When Patrick made her stock car debut at Daytona
in 2010, most realized that it was no longer a
matter of if but only when Danica would make the
move to NASCAR full-time. After enduring an entire
season of will-she-or-wont-she in 2009 (in
which she ironically finished a career-best fifth
in the season points standings), many people grew
tired of having so much attention and devotion
heaped upon a driver that had only claimed a single
victory over the course of five seasons (one that
many to this day discount as a fuel-mileage
victory). By the time the same antics played out in
2011, most in the INDYCAR Nation just wanted the
make-believe saga to be over with so that everyone,
particularly the tangent mainstream media, would
move on and discuss more pressing matters. In many
INDYCAR circles, the news of Danicas
departure was greeting with relief rather than
frustration or sadness.
The truly sad part of the Danica Patrick INDYCAR
story is that she could have been a really good
driver in this Series if she had stayed her course
from pre-Indy 2005. She may never have become a
truly great driver, but she could have been a very
good one who competed for several wins every year.
There is little doubt that Danica has the skills to
succeed in INDYCAR if put in the right position and
truly devoting herself to her craft. Unfortunately,
once Danica realized that she had become bigger
than the Series itself, she lost her long-term
focus and has been treading water now for several
years. For the past two seasons, she has done an
admirable job of juggling her INDYCAR and NASCAR
schedules, but it has become painfully obvious that
the fire just hasnt been there for the
open-wheel series. The parallels to Sam Hornish
Jr.s 2007 season are really uncanny. He was
accused of having checked out for most of that
year, and his disappointing results were used as
either justification for or an indication of his
desire to seek greener pastures. The Danica Patrick
of 2010 and 2011 has been eerily similar.
There should also be no mistake that IZOD
IndyCar Series owes Danica Patrick a large debt of
gratitude for all she has done for this Series.
Through some of its darkest days, Patrick was one
of the few pieces of the INDYCAR puzzle that was
recognized outside the paddock. Her presence, while
becoming somewhat of a lightning rod within the
INDYCAR Nation, brought thousands and thousands of
new fans into the Series and injected life into a
sport that was still reeling from more than a
decade of tearing itself apart. Had Danica Patrick
not been around in those years to be the public
face of INDYCAR, its very difficult to
imagine who would have stepped up and brought any
attention to the sport. Danica did her best to
execute these duties as well as her driving duties
in the best possible manner, and though some fans
mistook her at-track focus as a sign of
disconnection from the fans, not many people truly
realized the weight that she was bearing on a
race-to-race basis. With hundreds of fans mobbing
her with every move, its little wonder that
she sometimes needed a bit of time to herself and
for her team.
When Danica looks back on her INDYCAR career in
15 years, I fear that she will see it as being
largely incomplete. From the time Danica first
began to race go-karts, her dream was to win the
Indianapolis 500 -- not just to race at
Indianapolis or to be competitive there (and
certainly not to drive a stock car around there!).
She has had some terrific runs at the 500, and she
definitely has the skill set needed to win it
someday. However, it will never happen as a one-off
NASCAR driver. Unless Danicas Sprint Cup
career is a complete disaster and she quickly
returns to INDYCAR racing full-time as Dario
Franchitti did, her childhood dream is now destined
to go unfulfilled. Can the riches of NASCAR make
her feel better about that? Only she can answer
that question. Whatever it is that she seeks now,
one can only hope that she doesnt look back
and regret her decision to lose focus on her
INDYCAR career and ultimately walk away from it.
Time will tell.
Danica Patrick on
Achieving Your Dreams
Shes a pistol, exclaimed the
teamster in the Mets cap. Just as I turned to say
thanks I realized it wasnt me he was
referring to. Right then I caught my first
in-person glimpse of my Go Daddy Super Bowl spot
co-star, Danica Patrick. As she stepped out of her
trailer, I felt like I had been inserted into one
of those flicks from the 1980s. You know the ones
where the girl walks in slow-mo out into a wind
tunnel causing every man within a one-mile radius
to drop everything and fall to his knees.
The racing prodigy, sex symbol, powerhouse of a
half pint (shes tiny 52 at
best) turned and made a beeline right over to me,
extended her hand with a smile and said, Hi.
Danica. Nice to meet you. As I reached back
to shake hello, I instantly felt like
the kid who just became buddies with the most
popular girl in school.
That day and in every interaction weve
shared since, shes been gracious,
motivational, and friendly, offering me everything
from relationship counseling to investment advice,
to moral support during my transition to daytime
television. And of course, she gave me a tour of
her No. 7 GoDaddy.com IndyCar, which might have
been my highlight of 2011.
So, you can see why I wanted to talk with Danica
for my interview series on inspiration and
achieving dreams. Her words are honest,
straightforward, and passionate. Enjoy.
Jillian Michaels: Hey buddy. The first
thing I really want to get is a little history
about how you got into the sport. I know you
started as a kid right?
Danica Patrick: Yeah, I started racing
go-karts when I was 10. They were just little
five-horsepower brake engines, like lawn mower
engines. So thats the first kind of car I
ended up driving. I started doing it because my dad
was into racing. We used to go to a lot of races
and watch. Then, my sister really wanted to do it.
There was somebody in our neighborhood my
sisters age who raced go-karts, so we went
down to check it out and thought it was kind of a
fun family thing to do on the weekends. We were
going to buy a pontoon boat, but that didnt
happen so then we bought go-karts. It was a pretty
life-altering choice and purchase.
JM: Clearly. So now you started racing
go-karts at 10 years old, but when you were 15 you
went to train in Europe? What prompted that? When
did you guys recognize that you had serious skill
at this, like you could be a professional
racer kind of skill? And how did Europe come
DP: I still wonder if Im going to
be a serious racecar driver
JM: Ha! What are you talking about, dude!
Youre kidding right? You have got to be
kidding me? REALLY?!
DP: I dont know if you feel the
same, but no matter what you do, whether you try
and prove it to someone else or not, I always try
to prove to myself.
JM: Prove that you are great at what you
DP: Well, you know, if you have a bad
day, weekend, or event, and youre frustrated
You have to prove it to yourself because
there are a lot of really talented people out
there, and I feel like Im my own worst
critic. So okay, maybe Ive made it to the big
DP: Ha, okay, okay, Im in the big
leagues. To answer the first part of your question
about heading to Europe, at the time I was racing
go-karts and went to the Indy 500. I was there with
Lyn St. James and I was just hanging out at the
racetrack while she was practicing. I obviously was
very young only 14. And I clearly
wasnt on the racetrack but I was up in the
suite and there was this British guy there. I was
sitting at the bar ordering a kiddy cocktail and I
started asking him a lot of questions about what it
was like racing in Europe. I guess I asked all the
right questions because two years later when I was
16 the people he worked with said they had followed
my career for the last couple of years and would
really love to talk with me about an opportunity. I
remember when I was 14, I was told that I could
learn more in England in a year than I could learn
in five years in the states.
JM: You went to Europe without your
DP: Yep, I went and lived with these two
girls, one of whom I had never met before and the
other I had met for all of five minutes. I slept on
their couch for a while. It sounds really dramatic!
Like, I slept on a couch
JM: It is, though. Trekking to Europe
alone at 16 to figure things out for yourself is
DP: Eventually, after a couple of months,
I moved into a bedroom that was the size of a
shoebox. I was excited to be there, and probably
the biggest thing is that my parents let me do it
at 16. I was in high school, and I left high school
half way through my junior year. Thats a
pretty big stretch for a parent, especially
[when your kid has] aspirations of becoming
a professional athlete, which is not exactly the
easiest thing to accomplish. I spent three years
there and I learned a lot about racing.
Did I learn more there in one year then I would
have learned in five years in the states? No, but I
probably did learn about my life and being a
responsible person. I learned a lot about people
and what we are all capable of and the things to be
careful of. I learned who to trust and how much to
tell people. I feel lucky to have learned
[early] about the kinds of things that
would have been much more detrimental had I learned
them in my twenties.
JM: Right. Wish I could say the same. I
messed up a lot in my youth and my later years. And
Im still making those kinds of mistakes even
now. Insert loud sigh here.
JM: So when did you technically go
pro or join IndyCar or NASCAR? And, by the
way, Im sorry Im confused. You were in
DP: I have not always been in both. I
started getting paid when I was 19. That was the
first year I would consider myself a professional.
I started racing IndyCar in 2005. I did only
IndyCar until last year, so 2010. 2010 was the
first year I raced both IndyCar and NASCAR. And
then this year I also raced IndyCar and NASCAR.
JM: So you started out in IndyCar in
05 and that first year you were Rookie
of the Year. How did that make you feel?
DP: It was a cool thing and it was good
to achieve but, I dont know, as a competitor
you are always striving for the next thing. I just
about won the Indy 500 my first year so I would
sure have loved to carry that title as Indy 500
winner, but we live and learn and figure it out
along the way. You dont get it all right at
the beginning, I suppose.
JM: When I first met you, I could not
believe you were smaller than me, which I find
utterly thrilling cause that doesnt happen
often. You are this little teeny person in this
macho, male-driven sport. Whats that like for
you? And how do you handle it?
DP: I dont know any different. I
have always been one of the only girls or the only
girl, so it seems very normal to me. Working with
guys is easy, too. They are very straight thinkers.
What you think they are thinking, theyre
thinking. If a pretty girl walks by theyre
like, Oh, thats a hot chick, and
thats what theyre thinking.
JM: I find that occasionally, male egos
can be very fragile and when a woman comes in and
starts kicking butt and taking names, things can
get a little heated and hostile. Youve kicked
some butt, and Ive seen them make excuses as
to why you are better, saying things like,
Oh, well, shes lighter than
DP: I dont think men are
conditioned to be equal to women, but I think
thats changing. The equality mentality is
there and it is slowly evolving over time. But I
dont think guys like being beat by girls. I
dont like being beat by girls!
JM: Dude, you dont like getting
beat, period. I dont think you discriminate;
you are pretty competitive all the way around.
DP: Thats true.
JM: Whats the average speed for
DP: Lets take the Indy500. The
average speed going around the Indianapolis
speedway, which is a pretty flat track, is 170
JM: Have you had a serious accident?
DP: My worst accident was my very first
IndyCar race. I was racing at Homestead in Miami in
the very south of Florida, and I was running in the
top 10. A driver decided he was going to go way up
high, got loose and caused an accident. I was going
low to avoid it but a car that had broken
suspension was slowly coming down the track above.
He clipped my right rear tire and sent me straight
up into the wall, so I pretty much hit head on and
then my car caught fire. I dont really
remember any of it, so Im pretty sure I lost
consciousness. They shut down the track and the
footage shows me getting out of the car with the
ambulance in front of me. But I turn around and
start drunkenly stumbling away from it. So they
redirect me, take me into the ambulance, and get me
to the medical center at the track. The first thing
I remember was waking up, opening my eyes up, and
having a bright light above my head. I was freaking
out. Then my mom came up and she said, You
had a little accident but youre going to be
okay. And the next thing I was thinking was,
Um, can I feel my legs? At the same
time, there was a priest over my head as well, so
it was a very surreal experience.
JM: I cant imagine anything being
more terrifying. Your first pro race, youre
on the track, and you have an experience like that.
Thats insane. You almost die and think
youre paralyzed! I wouldnt have been
able to get back in the car! How on earth did you
get back in the car?
DP: I guess the fear is always out there.
And the older I get the more worried I get about
wellbeing. As you get older, you witness people get
sick and youre not a 15 year old anymore
where you feel like you have a million years left
to live. You get married, you think about your
significant other, you think about your parents,
you think about your grandparents that get sick.
You think more about the wellbeing part of your
life. But I wasnt thinking about it as much
JM: So, no terror, no PTSD
(post-traumatic stress disorder) getting back in
DP: No, I think thats just part of
it. You cant drive scared. You wont
take the right chances or push as hard as you could
if youre scared.
JM: What do you do when fear comes up? Or
do you have this intrinsic faith in your abilities
and an inherent sense that what will be will be?
What would you say to someone who is contending
with fear? I had a motorcycle accident and
havent ridden the same since. And I had a bad
surfing accident and never got back on the board.
So theres definitely something about you
thats unique which allows you to overcome
fear or manage fear in this way.
DP: Yeah, I also became Catholic when I
got married and I think that faith of putting your
fate in someone elses hands and hoping and
praying for the best is very powerful. You say
Im going to do everything I can and Im
going to be as smart as possible, but the future is
not all in my control anymore. Whether I pray for
safety or angels, or to be smart, I think
thats something that helps me. However, at
the end of the day, Im sure its just
something inside of me from a young age that helped
me to not be scared. Im scared of a lot of
other things though! Im scared of heights,
bugs, the dark, water I mean there is a lot
of stuff Im afraid of that is elementary
stuff, but for some reason Im able to get
back on the bike, as they say.
JM: Its interesting that you say
that your parents were meant to buy a pontoon boat
and then ended up buying go-karts. Ive
noticed with a lot of people like you, people who
are top of their game and considered super
achievers, theres always an element of
fate that comes into play. Do you believe in that
DP: Sure! I definitely do. I think that
we all have our own sort of path and plan
thats there and its a matter of making
good decisions along the way. Its about
responding to the signs. If someone doesnt
call you back about an offer on a pontoon boat, you
chose another route. The law of least resistance,
you go where its making sense and where the
JM: What about dreaming? Obviously you
developed a love for racing despite the way you
fell into it. Do you believe people should pursue a
dream at all costs?
DP: I dont force anything but once
the journey began I always dreamt really big about
where I would be and what I would do. When you
think big like that it inevitably guides your
actions in that direction. The things you do are in
your mind, even if its subconsciously, so I
always kept the big picture in my head.
JM: What would you say to a woman who
struggles with feeling ashamed or guilty about
thinking big or having dreams or desires? So many
feel they need to constantly sacrifice their own
needs for everyone elses parents,
DP: I would say that you should be around
people who encourage and support big dreams. These
are really important things in your life and if
somebody is not going to stand behind you on those
big ideas and aspirations things that take
some sort of bravery and confidence to have
then maybe you need to rethink that relationship.
What are the motives of the people around you? Are
they hindering you? Are you communicating
accurately what you want and is it really what you
want? And do you have the right amount of passion
JM: You must have a ton of passion
because when I went around the track with Mario
Andretti, he pulled about 160mph, which is 70mph
slower than you have driven. I was nauseous and I
could barely turn my head from side to side because
of the g-force. How in the world do you drive that
car for hours at a time, control it, and be aware
of your surroundings? How do you physically train
for that and how do you do it on the road?
DP: Usually when Im on the road,
for the most part, Im doing my job. Im
participating in the physical activity that
Im training for. Thats one of the good
things about being an athlete when you
travel you are doing what you are training for.
But, when Im not, I try to do a lot of
running. I think thats the easiest
cardiovascular activity. All you need is a pair of
JM: So you train endurance for
DP: Yes. I also train strength as well.
Three days a week, I lift. Ill do one
lower-body day and two upper-body days. Ill
throw that in with cardio, which is everything from
long, steady runs to shorter interval runs or a
bike ride for a couple of hours. I do all kinds of
different cardio activity just to shake it up. I
usually take about a month off at the end of the
year just to get away from the possibility of
over-training, but my body is built for it.
Ive been doing this for 20 years.
JM: Talk to me about the mental
discipline. When I was on that track at IndyCar, it
had to have been 118 degrees. You are in a car, in
a fire suit with a thermal wrapped around your head
and you cant get out for four hours. You
cant use the bathroom. You cant eat
anything. I was in the car for five minutes and I
thought I was going to die. The mental discipline
that it requires to put your body through that kind
of suffering is surreal. How do you prepare for
DP: In the summer you have to be aware of
dehydration, which is probably the biggest concern.
You train for the physical. You train for
endurance. But there are not a lot of ways to train
for heat exhaustion. Especially in NASCAR,
theres very little air movement in the car
because youre in a closed cockpit. Its
very hard to train for that sort of thing so you
just have to prepare your body right by eating or
drinking the right amount at the right time.
JM: Where do you go in your head when you
are physically miserable? Do you have some sort of
way to tune out the pain? I would die in that car
sweating and feeling claustrophobic like that.
DP: Well, youre pretty focused on
what you are doing so the heat thing isnt top
of mind. The temperature inside of a stock car can
get to be around 140 degrees. You drink as often as
possible and you try to relax your body.
Theres nothing else that you can do. You deal
with it and remind yourself to focus on what you
are doing. Its mind over matter.
JM: Thats truly awesome. I will be
JM: Now, these next questions are real
simple and straightforward. Whats the best
advice youve ever gotten?
DP: Every time I went out in a go-kart,
my dad said to have fun. I think that is really
good advice. It reminds you to do something you
love to do and have fun at.
JM: What are you most proud of?
DP: The funny thing is its probably
what I think about least, but when I look back, the
coolest thing I can think of is setting records. A
record is a record. Theres a first time for
everything. Records like being the first woman to
win an IndyCar race, or in Las Vegas in the
Nationwide Series, becoming the highest finishing a
female in a NASCAR race [4th place].
Ive only done a few races and havent
competed in a full NASCAR season yet, but to have
had the highest finish for a female in history
[the record was previously set in 1940 for 5th
place] those are cool statistics to
have. I have no idea what the records are until I
break them. Then, after, I think to myself,
What? Being the highest finishing
female in Indy and NASCAR! You are looking back on
the whole history of something and you have done it
better than anyone else. Thats pretty
JM: Who is your hero and why?
DP: I dont really have a hero. I
feel like I learn from everyone Im around,
whether its my dad or my husband, my mom or
my sister, you or anybody else. I like to hear
their stories, get to know them, and ask questions.
Thats how you learn. I dont ever want
to be like one person. I like to take away the best
parts of everyone I meet.
JM: Thats a great answer.
Whats your biggest regret?
DP: Probably a really generic answer, but
Im a really fortunate, lucky person. Im
successful and I have a great family. I think that
if I were to go back and change something it would
change the course of all of that, so I
wouldnt change anything. But perhaps I might
have changed one thing. At my first Indy500, I was
a little short on fuel and I saved fuel so I could
finish the race, but looking back I would have
taken that chance at greatness. I would have much
rather run out of fuel in the lead and had that
chance to win then given it up.
JM: You would have risked it all?
DP: Yeah, I would have risked it all for
sure. Its the biggest race in the world and
worth taking the risk.
JM: Okay, last two, whats the
hardest thing youve ever had to overcome?
DP: Getting people around me to see that
I had talent and getting them to invest in me.
Especially being a girl in racing, which is such a
male-dominated sport, it took time to get people to
believe in me and give me the faith, support, crew,
the right everything. We know it
takes the right everything to make it
work. Its about making everyone around you
believe that you can do it. That was probably one
of the hardest things.
JM: Last question. What would you say to
the female reader in general, whats your
parting shot to her about living her healthiest,
DP: I feel its very important to
find what you love to do. I think thats one
of the hardest things probably to figure it out.
Gosh, I mean how often is a girl going to get out
there, drive a go-kart, and figure out thats
what she has a passion for? You have to be
open-minded and try a lot of things. Its
about finding that thing and believing that you can
do anything with that. Anything is possible, and
most of the time I feel we are the ones who hold
ourselves back, so just go for it!
Danica Patrick ready for
full-time rigors of Nationwide Series
Danica Patrick says shes ready for
Yes, there will be some emotional moments when
she makes her final start as a full-time IndyCar
Series driver next weekend at Las Vegas Motor
Speedway, but Patrick says shes ready for the
demands of a full Nationwide Series
schedulenot to mention a handful of Sprint
Im really looking forward to
it, Patrick said Friday at Kansas Speedway,
where she was competing in the Kansas Lottery 300.
Im excited. Im ready for change.
There will be definitely things and people that I
miss about IndyCar. Im sure that, especially
on frustrating weekends, Ill think that, up
here in IndyCar, maybe its this much
But Im excited about the change, and
Im not afraid of change.
Patrick wont decide on her Sprint Cup
schedule until after the release of the Nationwide
schedule, expected next week.
If theres no schedule out, I
cant make a decision, Patrick said.
Im obviously going to try to work on
companion weekendsor maybe a stand-alone
weekend will be easier for me to not confuse
things. But I dont know which ones
theyre going to be yet.
Nevertheless, its a good bet that Patrick
will make her Cup debut in the Daytona 500 at a
track where she led 13 laps and finished 10th in
her last Nationwide outing. Patrick will drive for
Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series and for JR
Motorsports in Nationwide.
A start at newly repaved Phoenix International
Raceway, Patricks hometown track, isnt
out of the question either. JR Motorsports driver
Aric Almirola tested a Hendrick Motorsports Cup car
at Phoenix on Tuesday and Wednesday, as Hendrick
brought an electronic fuel injection car to the
test of the reconfigured track, in addition to the
Chevrolets driven by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson,
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin.
The Cup series is expected to debut
fuel-injected engines in the Daytona 500, according
to NASCAR vice president of competition Robin
Danica's new chapter
begins sooner than later
For most of her career she has been synonymous with
cars outfitted with side pods and nose cones,
vehicles that emit an insectile buzz rather than a
throaty, animalistic roar. Danica Patrick long has
been the queen of the IndyCar circuit, its top draw
and most popular driver, as much a part of that
racing discipline as brick start/finish lines,
Brazilian winners, or victorious swigs of milk.
Next weekend, though, that chapter comes to an end
when Patrick competes in her last open-wheel race
-- for now -- and her full-time NASCAR career
begins at last.
Technically, her first full-time NASCAR campaign
kicks off next year, when she takes over JR
Motorsports' No. 7 car for the entire Nationwide
Series schedule, with a handful of Sprint Cup
starts thrown in. But make no mistake about it --
once the IndyCar season finale next weekend at Las
Vegas is complete, Patrick is all stock car, all
the time. Mentally, she already may be there; prior
to her Nationwide start Saturday at Kansas
Speedway, she sounded as if the shift to NASCAR
couldn't come soon enough. But Patrick's next three
starts are the last three of the season, and that
triumvirate of Texas, Phoenix and Homestead serve
as a crucial jumping-off point toward next
"Texas is the starting point," crew chief Tony
Eury Jr. said. "We've got to go hard at Texas, got
to go hard at Homestead. Phoenix is going to be
different for everybody. But that's it. Got to go.
I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun.
Her attitude, she's a whole lot smarter than she
was when she got here two years ago. To get in
there week in and week out, we'll get better."
Daytona next season certainly will get all the
attention, particularly if Patrick attempts the
Daytona 500 in a Stewart-Haas car. But Texas,
really, is where it all begins. Texas will mark the
first time Patrick comes to a NASCAR track without
any intention of switching cars in the near future,
the first time JR Motorsports will be able to
prepare the No. 7 for just one driver rather than
the seven who have shared it this year. Yes, the
Indianapolis 500 is out there, and everyone expects
Patrick to try to find room in her NASCAR schedule
to make a run at the one race she still wants to
win most. But for all practical purposes, once
Patrick arrives in Fort Worth, all the distractions
are left behind.
Those last three races will be a time to
fine-tune for what Patrick hopes is a run at the
Nationwide championship in 2012. Eury said the No.
7 team will focus on small things, like getting on
and off pit road under a green flag, which they
plan to have videotaped so they can study them
during the winter.
"We have three weeks building into next year, so
we're going to try to learn as much as we can, as
hard as we can to just build momentum going into
next year," Eury said. "We feel really good about
what we've got going to Daytona, but we really want
to be focused in on like [Fontana] and
Phoenix. The first 10 races are everything for her.
Her goal is going to be trying to run for the
championship, so I've told her the first 10 races
are going to be everything. We've got to come out
of the gate [with] top-fives, top-10s.
She's got to have enough confidence in the cars so
we can make that happen."
Patrick has made 115 career starts on the
IndyCar circuit since her debut in 2005, winning
once in Japan, and twice coming tantalizingly close
to victory in the Indianapolis 500. Given how much
of her racing life has been dedicated to that
discipline, it would seem only natural for her to
be a little wistful at this point, with her final
event as a full-time member of the series only days
away. She's not. Asked at Kansas if she had thought
at all about next week's looming IndyCar farewell,
Patrick sounded like someone who mentally already
had shifted gears.
"Not really," she said. "I think I've had a nice
transition over these two years to adapt and to
really feel good about my decision and
transitioning over to NASCAR. And it really has
been a transition. It hasn't been one to the next,
it's been a transition. I think that's helped it,
and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm ready for
change. There will be definitely things and people
that I miss about IndyCar. I'm sure especially on
frustrating weekends I'll think, well, when I came
here in IndyCar it was much easier. I'm excited
about the change, and I'm not afraid of change. I
think it's going to be fun."
Translation: Are we there yet? That sense of
anticipation has to be heightened by the
improvement Patrick had made in the Nationwide car
this season, and her progression from a driver who
struggled to stay on the lead lap to someone who
finished fourth at Las Vegas -- best ever for a
female driver in NASCAR's national divisions -- and
recorded 10th-place results at Chicagoland and
Daytona (2011 results). Just imagine what the might
be capable of once she sheds the burden of her
part-time schedule, and that car-switching
hopscotch that's likely held her back more than
anything else. After next weekend, that tactic
becomes a thing of the past.
"It's going to make it a lot easier," Eury
concedes. There are also the intangibles, like a
level of camaraderie in the NASCAR garage area with
which Patrick seems completely enamored. And
limited as they are, she even likes the NASCAR
testing rules better, important because she's
likely to do a lot of it in a stock car in the
"What are the rules for testing in these cars?
Can't go to tracks that you race at, but pretty
much it's open, right? Which is much better than
IndyCars, so I have a feeling it will help me
prepare a little bit more," she said. "In IndyCar
we have so many strict rules with mileage and tire
allotments. There are many times we go to a test,
and you get 100 miles and two sets of tires, and
you went all that way for two sets of tires, and
God forbid you flat-spot one. I think that will be
better. I think the testing rules are better for me
in NASCAR, and they'll allow me to test a little
bit more often. But there obviously will be a lot
of tracks I haven't been to before, so that will be
No question, the challenges will still be there,
even once Patrick becomes so ensconced in NASCAR
that the terminology and pit-road procedures become
second nature. But for now, it's time for one
chapter in her racing career to end, and a new one
to begin -- sooner than most think.
"I think she's ready to move on," Eury said.
"Definitely [the Indianapolis 500] was her
big deal over there. She really wanted to win that
race, and still does, if she can make things
happen. She's ready to come over here. She knows
this is part of her future. She's eager to get over
here and get going on it."
Patrick takes stock in her
career move to NASCAR
2012 plans: Full-time move to Nationwide for JRM;
limited Cup slate with SHR
NASCAR full time in 2012, had Brooke Patrick not
stepped away from the family go-kart nearly 20
On Thursday, Patrick confirmed plans to take the
next step in her career -- one which began in the
Midwest, then to England as a teenager, and then a
triumphant return to racing's heartland and the
And now, her focus turns to NASCAR. Sitting
alongside Bob Parsons, CEO and founder of GoDaddy,
Patrick made it official Thursday: She will run the
entire Nationwide Series schedule next season for
JR Motorsports. In addition, she'll compete in
between eight and 10 Sprint Cup Series races for
Patrick said climbing out of the ARCA car at
Daytona in 2010 was "the most fun I had ever had in
a race car." So making the transition to stock cars
was the next natural evolution in her career.
"The experience was something I've really,
really enjoyed," Patrick said. "The time is now.
The opportunity is now. Bob and GoDaddy have made
that possible. I want to do it.
"I don't want to wait years. I want to do it
now. And I'm lucky enough to have a sponsor that
will stand behind me and allow me to go."
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France welcomed
"We are pleased Danica Patrick has chosen to
race full time in NASCAR in 2012," France stated.
"She has demonstrated a strong desire to compete
and NASCAR provides the best opportunity to race
against the top drivers in the world with the
largest and most loyal fan base in motorsports on a
"Danica has shown solid improvement in NASCAR
and we believe her decision to run full time in the
NASCAR Nationwide Series, with additional races in
the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will be exciting for
our fans and a great challenge for her."
As to whether she'll make her Cup debut in the
2012 Daytona 500, Patrick left the door open.
"We're definitely considering that, but the
schedule right now for the Sprint Cup races next
year is not set," Patrick said. "It'll probably be
about eight to 10 races. But the actual races
themselves have not been chosen yet."
Whatever those races turn out to be, it appears
it won't be long before she is running all of them
on NASCAR's premier stage.
"We're very excited to have Danica Patrick and
Go Daddy join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012 for a
limited NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule with the
intention of us running her full time in Sprint Cup
in 2013," team co-owner Tony Stewart stated. "We're
proud of the fact she wants to come and be a part
of Stewart-Haas Racing and what we've built with
Ryan Newman and myself and all of our partners.
Having Danica and Go Daddy as a combination at SHR
is something we're really looking forward to."
In 1992, 8-year-old Brooke decided she'd like to
try racing go-karts. It was a short-lived
adventure, as she crashed four times in one race.
So Danica climbed in as her replacement -- and has
been hooked on racing ever since.
Patrick was anything but an immediate success at
it. In fact, she admits she wasn't much better than
"In my first race in go-karts, I was lapped
within six laps by the competition," Patrick said
in a 2002 interview. "I knew I would have to
concentrate, improve and be determined. But racing
is something I wanted to do once I drove that kart
for the first time."
However, Patrick stuck with it, improved as the
season went on and finished second in her age
group. The following year, Patrick finished second
in her region and was fourth in the national Yamaha
Sportsman class. And in 1994, Patrick won her first
World Karting Association national
She moved up in class and by 1996, was winning
with regularity. As a 14-year-old, she dominated
the Yamaha Junior and Restricted Junior classes,
winning 39 of 49 feature races. Patrick also
attended a driving school run by Lyn St. James --
the second woman to drive in the Indy 500 -- who
invited her to the Brickyard in 1997 to watch the
race and meet other influential people in the
The advice Patrick received? One, make the
switch from go-karts to open-wheeled cars. Two, go
to England. And at 16, Patrick left her family and
began competing in the Formula Vauxhall Winter
Running the entire series in 1999, Patrick
finished ninth. That gave her the confidence to
advance to the British Zetek Formula Ford Series
the following season, where she finished second at
Brands Hatch -- the best performance by an American
in the history of the event.
She also caught the eye of Indy 500 winner Bobby
Rahal, who was scouting young drivers for the
Jaguar Formula 1 team he was managing. He was
impressed enough that when she returned to the
U.S., he signed her to a development deal with his
Rahal Letterman Racing Indy-car team.
In 2002, Patrick got her first taste of what was
to come when she tested a Busch Series car for ppc
Racing. The following season, she raced in the
Toyota Atlantic Series, finishing third in the
points. Patrick matched that result in 2004,
scoring 10 top-five finishes in 12 races.
At the end of the season, Rahal decided to
promote her to a full-time ride in the Indy Racing
League. And in 2005, Patrick made her IRL debut at
Homestead, finishing 15th. Three races later, she
scored her first top-five finish with a fourth at
Motegi, Japan. And she became the first woman to
lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500 when she nearly
made a late-race fuel strategy gamble pay off,
eventually settling for fourth and rookie of the
Patrick moved to Andretti Green Racing beginning
in 2007 and one year later, became the first female
driver to win an IRL race when she captured the
Indy Japan 300 at Motegi, topping off her tank
during the final caution and then conserving enough
fuel to make it to the checkered flag.
She accepted her newest challenge in 2010 when
she made her stock-car debut in the ARCA race at
Daytona, then competed in 13 Nationwide Series
"The thing you see in Danica right away is how
determined she is to be good at what she does.
She's very dedicated to taking the time and effort
to make the transition from Indy cars to stock
cars," Stewart stated. "She has talent, she has the
right mindset and she has the proper drive and
determination. It doesn't matter who it is you're
looking for, those are the key attributes that you
look for in a driver, and Danica's got them."
So far in 2011, Patrick has one top-five and
three top-10 finishes in seven Nationwide
"We're thrilled with Danica Patrick's decision
to join us for the 2012 season and looking forward
to seeing her behind the wheel of a NASCAR
Nationwide Series car on a consistent basis,"
stated Matt Jauchius, chief marketing and strategy
officer for series sponsor Nationwide Insurance.
"Her presence will continue to make our series
stronger and more competitive. She has proven to
raise awareness levels of our sport, sponsors and
competitors, and that's good for everyone
NASCAR's gain is IndyCar's loss.
"Danica has always been a great ambassador for
IndyCar, and there is no doubt she has left a
positive impression on our sport," IndyCar CEO
Randy Bernard stated. "She has touched millions of
fans and many that were new to motorsports. Danica
attracted a fan base that every athlete and sports
property in the world would love to have.
"We should give her a great farewell the rest of
this season as she opens a new page in her career
and wish her continued success with her new
Rahal put it best when he was asked if Patrick
should be considered as just another pretty
"Danica shakes your hand and, crunch, it's like
a truck driver," Rahal said. "That's the yin and
yang of Danica. The exterior is nice and pretty --
and underneath she is as tough as steel."
Eury looks forward to
full-time season with Patrick
Danica is equally pleased with 'good ol' southern
boy,' says he understands her
But this weekend at Bristol, he's got a double
reason to grin. Friday he was working on the No. 7
Chevrolet with promising newcomer Josh Wise, one
day after Danica Patrick and sponsor GoDaddy.com
announced a 2012 full-season Nationwide Series
program in that car.
Eury, who focuses all of his attention on the
competition side of the business, hasn't hesitated
to praise Wise, an open-wheel graduate whose
stock-car future is undetermined.
But he's almost inside-out in anticipation of
having a shot at a NASCAR championship with
Patrick, who will finish her 2011 IndyCar Series
schedule before embarking on a stock-car
"I think it'll be a blast," Eury said of the
deal. "I'm glad it all worked out and that's kinda
what I told them from the beginning. I didn't want
to know much about [the negotiations]. I
just let it go."
Eury said he sent Patrick a message Thursday
"telling her I was tickled to death, happy about
"We've just got to make sure that me and this
race team are up to the task," Eury said. "And
let's go do it."
Patrick is equally pleased with the only stock
car crew chief she's ever known
"He's been really great -- a really talented
guy," Patrick said. "He's just like a good ol'
southern boy. He gets really serious when you're in
the moment, but he's a heckuva lot of fun out of
"He gets everyone to work really hard around
him, and I think he's understood me really well. I
feel really lucky to have had such experience on my
side for those first times that I've driven in a
The No. 7 has run full Nationwide schedules with
a cornucopia of drivers the past two seasons,
including 20 races by Patrick.
Eury's looking forward to the stability of
working with just one driver.
"We've had different drivers in and out, so to
go with some consistency, it'll be easier to come
up with setups and tune on them," Eury said.
"That's the thing about having the same driver, all
year. When you do have [different] drivers
you do learn other ways that people look at things,
how other drivers are manipulating set-ups and
"That's interesting in itself, because you're
not stuck in one [mode]. It'll be neat to
have a little bit more consistency."
In addition to running full-time in Nationwide,
Patrick said Thursday that she plans to compete
next season in eight to 10 Cup Series races for
Stewart-Haas Racing. Eury said there have been no
discussions about him being the crew chief for
Patrick's Cup races -- though he also said he'd be
willing to try anything.
Eury also had plenty to say about the balance of
2011 -- in which Patrick has five more stock-car
races scheduled. She'll race on the weekend of the
Chase for the Sprint Cup cutoff at Richmond, then
prepare for Kansas, Texas, Phoenix and
"It makes those races more important [now
that we know we have a full schedule in 2012],
but I wouldn't say it puts a different spin on
them," Eury said. "They're important because, now
you're really focused on making sure you come out
of the box with her strong, in 2012, like we did
At the beginning of 2011, when Patrick ran the
first four races before going back to Indy cars,
she was ninth in the championship when she took her
"We've got to have another good start like that,
so we're going to make damned sure that we take
full advantage of everything we do," Eury said.
"We'll try to get some more testing in before the
end of the year at some different tracks -- kinda
like we took baby steps this year."
Eury said there's a rumored Nationwide race in
2012 at Rockingham Speedway, "so we might schedule
a test there, and we're going to be going to some
new tracks for her, like Darlington, so we need to
be prepared for that."
NASCAR confirmed Friday, that under current
rules, no testing is allowed during the year at
tracks where the three national series compete. If
Rockingham was put on the schedule, probably no
testing would be allowed there, either. However,
the Nationwide Series typically runs open practice
days before new venues, or new surfaces are used --
such as an open practice scheduled in November on
Phoenix International Raceway's new surface.
On Thursday, Patrick said she was still
uncertain about the 2012 Indy 500.
Eury thought a moment about NASCAR's typical
schedule during the month of May and instantly
bought into the idea of Patrick attempting the one
open-wheel race that means the most to her.
"I think it would go pretty easy," Eury said.
"The biggest thing you'd be looking at would be
qualifying [for Indy] the week before, when
we're in Iowa. I know it's a dream of hers --
that's where she grew up.
"It'd be the same thing as Dale Earnhardt Jr.
being here, having never won the Daytona 500 and
deciding he wanted to go run Indy cars.
[Winning the Daytona 500] would always be
something he wanted to do. It's the same thing
[for Patrick] -- just backwards.
"That's where she come from, it's the biggest
race of the year and it's always something she
wanted to do. So if she wants to do it, it's all in
the [hands of] the powers that be wanting
to make it happen."
IndyCar says Danica
Patrick's departure 'doesn't hurt us'
She insists her popularity isn't the only thing
putting eyes on the Izod IndyCar Series, but
there's no denying Danica Patrick has boosted
attendance and television ratings in a series
desperate for both.
Danica Patrick, pictured at a Chicago Bears game
in late September, doesn't think her departure from
IndyCar will diminish the series and she hopes to
return to run "multiple" Indy 500s.
Now that Patrick has one race left in her
seven-year IndyCar run before joining NASCAR full
time in 2012, officials and drivers wonder about
her significance on a series stressed by low
ratings and ticket sales.
They also wonder who, if anyone, will replace
The TV rating for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 was
a 6.5 when Patrick, then a rookie, took the lead
late in the race. The ratings in the series'
premier race have steadily declined to a low of 3.6
in 2010, a year after her best 500 finish, possible
evidence that Patrick's influence on ratings and
attendance wasn't as substantial as once
Patrick supports that theory, saying her
departure won't hurt IndyCar, nor will her move to
NASCAR dramatically boost its ratings or
"The IndyCar Series is not just me running
around," she says. "If it was, it would be
extremely boring. It takes personalities and story
lines to maintain interest. NASCAR has been very
successful without me. Just because I'm going there
now doesn't mean it's going to succeed or fail
because of me. The same goes for the IndyCar
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard acknowledges Patrick's
presence "was able to bring a different
demographic, different than your purist or
traditionalist," but thinks the series will survive
without the driver who has one win in 115 races
entering the Oct. 16 finale in Las Vegas.
"It helps NASCAR," Bernard says, "but it doesn't
(Editors's note: What an arrogant man. Shades
of Formula 1.)
In fact, it might help some of the IndyCar's
most successful drivers gain recognition.
"There was always that kind of disconnect with
having Danica in the series," says two-time
defending series champion Dario Franchitti, who is
married to actress Ashley Judd and is
best-positioned to replace Patrick as IndyCar's
most marketable driver. "We had a bit of the same
thing that NASCAR has with Dale Earnhardt Jr., in
that the most popular driver in the series doesn't
necessarily win races."
Most of IndyCar's races are shown on Versus,
where race ratings hover around 0.5. The series has
long been criticized for having a disjointed and
incoherent marketing plan, relying on Patrick's
fame to hold up sales and ratings.
Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves
disagrees, saying. "The marketing side of IndyCar
is well-planned, and we have enough drivers with
personality to attract people. We won't be losing
anything in terms of the number of people who watch
Bernard thinks IndyCar needs to rely on its
established stars to attract fans in the
"With one more win, Dario goes right alongside
A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser,
Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr as one of the greatest
IndyCar racers of all-time," Bernard says. "At some
point people are going to pay attention to how
great this guy is."
As for Patrick's future? She says she would like
to return to compete in "multiple" Indy 500s if her
NASCAR schedule allows it and "if it's with a
"I feel like I've done well at Indy and have
great memories from there," she says. "I'd like to
continue that if possible."
Danica's New Ride
Danica Patrick is a girly-girl, but that
doesnt stop her from kicking butt on the
racetrack at 200 miles an hour. The IndyCar driver,
whose racing career started with go-karts when she
was a child, has parlayed a successful career in
auto racing into a multifaceted business
résumé, one that includes swimsuit
model for Sports Illustrated, Tissot watch
ambassador and GoDaddy.com spokeswoman.
There are two pretty different sides to
me, Patrick says while getting ready for a
recent Glamour magazine event at Barnard
College.I love to get clothes from stylists
and get my hair and makeup done. I really enjoy
both parts and Im lucky to be able to drive
race cars and still get made up. Its a
Patrick was in New York a few days after her
sixth-place finish at the inaugural Baltimore Grand
Prix race, where she managed to battle her way up
from 23rd place. It wont be long, however,
before she moves beyond the IndyCar circuit and
races NASCAR full-time. For the past two years,
shes been racing in about a dozen NASCAR
events as well as the Indy series. But after seven
years focusing on Indy, shes ready for a
Its like starting over again,
she says, excited about the challenges of racing in
the NASCAR Nationwide Series full time in 2012.
Patrick has had success in a sport where few
women venture, but she says the men she races
against never say anything about her photo shoots
or swimsuit glam shots. I dont know,
maybe they feel awkward.
She also speculates that other women dont
gravitate toward race car driving because they
arent exposed to it at a young age, as she
They grow up playing basketball, baseball
and football in gym class, but if they want to do
something beyond that, its hard, she
says. They need to buy a go-kart and find a
track thats something that tends to be
in your family.
Her father raced snowmobiles, midgets and
motocross, she says, so racing is in her blood.
But so is fashion. Though Patrick is intent on
racing for at least the next several years, fashion
design could be in her future. Right now, she has
deals with Tissot for watches and William Rast for
sunglasses, but has decided against an apparel
sponsor. She says fashion firms have approached her
about lending her name to apparel, but the timing
hasnt been right.
I would like to either do a joint line
with a designer, or my favorite idea
do my own line, she says. But
thats down the road. I would have to give it
the right amount of effort, choose the materials,
the cuts, thats what will make it a
So for now, shell stick with other
designers wares. When shes not in the
public eye, she leans toward jeans, T-shirts and
ballet flats or flip-flops, or BCBG dresses. For
more formal occasions, she prefers outfits with
unique lines and odd angles. Most
recently, shes gravitated toward Alexander
McQueen and Gucci.
I like a unique look, she says.
IndyCar set to race with
For seven years, Danica Patrick has reigned as the
most popular driver in the IndyCar Series and one
of the most marketable drivers in all of
She's appeared in Super Bowl ads for sponsor Go
Daddy. She's posed for photo spreads in Sports
Illustrated's swimsuit issue and FHM magazine. Time
magazine named Patrick to its list of the world's
100 most influential people, and People deemed her
among the world's most beautiful.
Patrick will be taking her driving abilities and
star power to NASCAR full-time in 2012, meaning the
Kentucky Indy 300 on Sunday will be Patrick's last
IndyCar race at Kentucky Speedway.
"Most people probably think of it as a negative
for IndyCar," IndyCar chief executive officer Randy
Bernard said this week. "I don't look at it as much
as a negative for IndyCar as a positive for
"She does bring a different demographic. But if
you've been to our events, she has a nice appeal
with the fan base, but it's not our only fan
Patrick has been an asset for the IndyCar brand
since she arrived in 2005. But the sanctioning body
has been wise not to build the IndyCar Series
around her alone, a motorsports marketing executive
"You've got drivers like Helio (Castroneves).
Dario Franchitti. Will Power. These are guys with
personalities and recognition," said Mike Mooney,
vice president of motorsports for The Marketing
Arm. "The league is smart in building upon multiple
personalities because they know a driver may
(leave) through injury, through attrition, through
sponsorship, through a switch like Danica's just
decided to make. That will happen."
Castroneves is a three-time Indianapolis 500
winner who in 2007 achieved broad mainstream appeal
when he won ABC's Dancing with the Stars. The
36-year-old Brazilian would seem poised to become
IndyCar's most popular and marketable driver.
He thinks Patrick's departure is an opportunity
for IndyCar to promote even more of its
"You have great cars, great drivers and teams
now. Everything is merged together," Castroneves
said. "I do believe you have a variety of drivers,
and each one of them has their own personality. A
lot of people might not know that.
"Maybe Danica leaving might be a good thing
because they're going to have to become creative.
Having her, it was more, we know she's going to
draw a crowd and let's take advantage of it.
Everybody is going to have to roll their sleeves up
and go to work. Certainly, there is room for a lot
of drivers, and that might be a great opportunity
Castroneves ranks 10th in the IndyCar Series
standings this season, two spots ahead of Patrick,
but he trails the Andretti Autosport driver across
the board in The Marketing Arm's Celebrity Davie
The DBI measures a celebrity's ability to
influence consumers and is used by brands and their
agencies to help identify celebrity spokespersons
for marketing purposes. Castroneves and Patrick are
among the nearly 2,900 celebrities in the
"A guy like Helio, he's ... definitely on the
radar in terms of getting it done on the track,"
Mooney said. "But also if they're looking to
broaden their appeal and use someone like him, I
think they're still going to be OK."
"I think Verizon has done a remarkable job with
Will Power, putting him in ads and on billboards,"
Bernard said. "I would hope Target would do the
same thing one day with Dario (Franchitti) because
I think that's where you build the stardom for your
drivers - through the activation of your
Patrick's marketing team has branded her as a
determined and talented driver with celebrity sex
appeal. But she hasn't been just a pretty face.
Patrick was the first woman to lead the
Indianapolis 500 and made history by becoming the
first woman to win a major, closed-course
motorsports event. She hasn't won in IndyCar since
2008 at Twin Ring Motegi - a drought of 64 races
entering Sunday's race at Kentucky Speedway - but
earlier this year finished fourth in a NASCAR
Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor
"The fans who have been following her in both
series (IndyCar and NASCAR) as well as marketers in
this sport, I think we're beyond that fascination
and curiosity," Mooney said. "It's really about
what she's doing on track and she is a performer on
track. She's a competitor."
One of Patrick's three career IndyCar pole
positions came at the 1.5-mile track in Sparta. The
speedway will get a dose of Danica next year. She
will be driving a full Nationwide Series schedule
for JR Motorsports and limited Sprint Cup Series
race with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Meanwhile, her IndyCar team owner is confident
the series will be fine after she moves to
"Is our series going to die without Danica?
Absolutely not," said Michael Andretti, who owns
the No. 7 car driven by Patrick in the IndyCar
Series. "As she leaves, I think there are still
going to be people that are going to watch our
sport because it is the best, I think, the best
auto racing series in the world. I mean, it's so
exciting. Every race is exciting ... It's not going
to be as big of a deal as everybody thinks."
Danica Patrick hopes to
start Sprint Cup career in Daytona 500
Danica Patrick thinks it would be nice if she got
her NASCAR Sprint Cup career started at the Daytona
The IndyCar star, who is moving to NASCAR full
time next season, will run a limited Cup schedule
in a car owned by Tony Stewart next year. She will
mostly race at tracks where Stewart expects her to
struggle, which makes Daytona even more attractive
"I think it would be a good start," she told The
Associated Press in an interview Thursday. "It
would be nice if the Sprint Cup debut was at a
track where I have the opportunity to finish well,
especially given the idea that we're going to go to
tracks that are going to be challenging and
probably ones that I'll do the worst at, but I
don't know yet."
Stewart, who was at an appearance with sponsor
Office Depot in Richmond, said in a telephone
interview that he has looked at having her run the
sport's biggest race of the season, but hasn't
decided yet if she will. He said he worked with
Patrick in a two-car draft during a Nationwide
series race at Daytona in July, and said "she ran
really, really well all day there."
Stewart has said that Patrick, who also will
race full time in the Nationwide series in a car
owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. next year, will drive
in eight to 10 Cup races with an emphasis on
learning. The complete schedule for the 2012 season
has yet to be released.
"I think it's hard for anybody coming into this
Cup series," he said. "I was intimidated the first
time I raced in the Daytona 500. I went into that
race just thinking about running laps."
As an owner, he said, "it's my job to make sure
we keep her goals attainable."
Patrick sounds ready to do the same, especially
since the plan is to have her race full time in the
Cup series in 2013.
"I think the idea is to pick tracks that'll be
really hard and that I'll need the most practice
at, which is going to be really exciting as I'm
lapped for the fifth time out there," she said.
"But it will make it better for the next time I
Patrick, who was in town a day before the
Nationwide series race to promote DRIVE4COPD.com
an awareness campaign for chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, said she also does not know yet
whether she will attempt to drive in the
Indianapolis 500 next year.
"My world is quite complicated with sponsors,
and sponsor conflicts and what colors and what
people are on the sides of my car, and where I'm at
and what I'm doing, and what engine manufacturers,"
she said. "That's all really complicated, and you
know, there's a lot of things to look at and think
about before we can know for sure if that's going
to happen next year."
Patrick's NASCAR plans
prompt more criticism
Danica Patrick lost her 85th consecutive IndyCar
race Sunday at Sonoma, and if you didn't already
know her record is now 1-for-180, there's an entire
website that obsessively tracks her lack of
progress and touts her as "OVER-HYPED And
It's not a new site, but since announcing last
week that she'll move full-time to NASCAR next
season, the haters have been out in full force with
scathing commentary and scrutiny that seems
It's doubtful anyone has ever paid attention to
what five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has
worn to a press conference, but one publication
noted that Patrick wore "orange hooker heels" to
last Thursday's announcement. She's been referred
to by her married name, Mrs. Paul Hospenthal,
called "Mrs. Arrogant," and had her underwhelming
IndyCar statistics repeated again and again as fans
debate whether she deserves a NASCAR ride.
It's been mean-spirited, unfair, and worst of
all, off the mark.
In auto racing, talent and performance are not
the most important job requirements, unlike any
other professional sport. It's money, especially in
heavily marketed NASCAR.
Nobody gets a job driving race cars at the top
level without sponsorship, and those who
successfully find a corporate partner will always
get the rides. Every single week, in a series
somewhere, there's a driver on the track only after
finding enough sponsorship to buy the seat for that
Eight months ago, Kevin Conway was on the stage
in Las Vegas collecting his reward as the Sprint
Cup Series rookie of the year. Nevermind that
nobody had ever heard of Conway before he overnight
became a driver in NASCAR's top division, or that
his resume probably wouldn't have warranted a
Conway, it turned out, is a skilled marketer and
put together a sponsorship package that landed him
on the same race track as some of the best drivers
in the world. He didn't win a race, didn't notch a
single top-20 finish, and in 28 starts, he finished
higher than 30th only four times.
Yet there he was, rookie of the year, and as
such, eligible to run the All-Star Race this past
There was some snickering, but nothing close to
the venom that's routinely spewed at Patrick.
Patrick and her marketing team have mastered the
auto racing business model, creating a lucrative
and long-term relationship with GoDaddy.com. Now,
GoDaddy.com chairman Bob Parsons is willing to move
that money to NASCAR, where she'll race a full-time
Nationwide schedule with JR Motorsports, plus
eight-to-10 Cup races with Stewart-Haas Racing.
We're supposed to believe teams shouldn't cash
the checks because Patrick's statistics don't stack
Or do they?
Through 20 career Nationwide races with JRM,
Patrick has three top-10 finishes, a career-best
finish of fourth at Las Vegas and led 13 laps at
Her top-10s have come this season, in seven
starts, giving her an average of 43 percent.
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne has nine top-10
finishes in 20 Nationwide starts an average
of 45 percent.
Patrick's first top-10 came in her 15th career
start. By comparison, IndyCar star Sam Hornish Jr.
had no top-10s in 11 Nationwide starts before he
went to Cup, and Dario Franchitti had no top-20s in
four Nationwide starts before he moved up. Although
there were skeptics as to how they would perform at
NASCAR's top level, neither Franchitti nor Hornish
were accused of not deserving a Cup ride.
Then again, neither has ever attracted as much
attention as Patrick.
She has done a remarkable job of building her
brand, and with it comes a public interest that
reaches far beyond the die-hard race fan. Her six
top-10s in seven career Indianapolis 500 starts
pumped life into that race and is proof enough that
she can handle high speeds and race on ovals on the
biggest of stages.
With each of those runs came more eyeballs,
whether it's to televised races, newspaper articles
or Web hits, and when someone drives traffic that
way, they will always get attention.
Maybe that's unfair to the Justin Allgaiers of
the world, the kind of drivers who fight and claw
for a shot and consistently fall short of that one
big break because of a lack of sponsorship. There's
always going to be that obscure driver who guts out
a gritty career-best finish, only to be
overshadowed by a juicer story.
But it's the system that's the problem, not
Patrick. She played it perfectly, regardless of
what she has or has not done on the race track.
On Sunday night, three days after making her
NASCAR plans official and opening herself to a
fresh round of attacks, she closed the week with a
21st-place run on the road course at Sonoma.
Disappointed, Patrick quickly focused on the
future, promising to return and do better
next time as a NASCAR driver.
"It's tough days like today that I am extra
appreciative of my fans," she posted on her Twitter
page. "I will be back to redeem myself....but it
will have a roof."
Patrick's impact on
sport hinges on performance
Experts agree Patrick on the track isn't enough,
she needs to succeed
It's understandable why so many people in NASCAR
are so giddy about the prospect of Danica Patrick
competing full-time in the Nationwide Series next
season. She is one of the more recognizable and
marketable race car drivers on the planet, a figure
whose athletic potential, commercial viability and
sex appeal have traditionally outshined even her
exploits on the track. She commands attention
simply by walking onto pit road in a firesuit,
something very few other drivers -- even those much
more accomplished -- can do.
We've already seen the results of that, even in
Patrick's relatively short time in NASCAR. Her
Nationwide debut last February in Daytona was the
most-watched event from that series ever on cable
television, drawing more than 4 million viewers and
a rating that tripled what Nationwide races
typically get. Executives at Daytona International
Speedway are crossing fingers over a potential
Daytona 500 attempt as part of a limited Sprint Cup
campaign. Clearly, she can move the needle.
And yet, there's still something of a novelty
factor at work here, given that Patrick has
competed in all of 20 NASCAR national-division
races, and everyone is still wondering what she's
capable of in a vehicle with fenders. We should
begin to get some of those answers now that Patrick
has announced plans to move into the Nationwide
tour full-time in 2012. The more seat time, the
better. Throughout this two-year dalliance with
stock-car racing, Patrick's largest drawback has
been a piecemeal schedule that forces her out of
her No. 7 JR Motorsports car just as she seems to
be getting the feel for it.
No more. Next season Patrick becomes a regular
just like everyone else, a fact that should
accelerate her growth curve, and extend those
too-brief flashes of promise we've seen from a
driver whose mentality and temperament seem so much
better suited to stock cars than dainty open-wheel
machines. From the standpoint of her personal
development as a NASCAR driver, she'll finally be
able to build on efforts week to week, and perhaps
attain that level of consistency that has thus far
And yet, this is all much bigger than Danica
Patrick. No question, she is an individual driver
with individual aspirations and her own individual
reasons for making the commitment to NASCAR. But at
the same time she enters a Nationwide Series that
has issues of its own, from its constant search for
an identity to the fact that championship leader
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. still drives a blank white race
car too many weekends of the year. No question,
Patrick's galvanizing effect has the potential to
change that to a certain degree, to be the rising
tide that lifts all boats. She brings with her
attention and ratings, two things sponsors want to
see, and it's not unrealistic to hope that the
entire series may benefit from the brighter
spotlight that follows Patrick wherever she
"I think she will raise the overall awareness of
the series and bring in some new fans. That's good
for everybody," said Zak Brown, founder and
chairman of Just Marketing International, an
Indianapolis agency that specializes in
motorsports. "I think she'll be successful
commercially, and I think it will have a knock-on
effect on the series itself, because people will be
tuning into it. I'm sure she'll bring in new
viewers, and that will be good for everybody."
For that to happen, though, one key thing has to
occur -- Patrick has to eventually win, or at least
get close. NASCAR fans are a savvy bunch, and are
well-versed in the differences between real
accomplishment and hype. New fans aren't as likely
to be drawn in by somebody running 25th. Put
Patrick up front, consistently, and the whole
equation changes; there's a reason why the 2005
Indianapolis 500, where Danica led until almost the
very end, enjoyed its highest TV rating in eight
years. Drop her to the back, and it's the status
quo. NASCAR is a results-oriented business,
something not even Patrick's immense magnetism can
change. Like everyone else, her impact on the
Nationwide Series will ultimately come down to
Danica Patrick ended months of speculation after
announcing that she will be competing full time in
the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports in
"She has a unique ability to raise the stature
of the Nationwide Series," said David Carter,
executive director of the University of Southern
California's Sports Business Institute. "Even
though it's the case that many of the top-tier
drivers also participate in these races, you don't
see the same level of notoriety, of media coverage
or fan attention in that series. She's going to
retrain the eye of a lot of racing fans to keep an
eye on that series. That's obviously going to be
good for the overall series."
There's a catch, though. "If she's competitive
consistently, which is always vital, if she's
always in the thick of it, then that will drive the
TV ratings," Carter added. "It should help those
cars that are not presently sponsored, no matter
how well they're racing. If they still don't have
sponsorship, then her ability to lift all the boats
will be there. But once you get past the initial
infatuation and interest in how she's going to
compete, you just really need to know that she has
to settle in to a steady state of being at or near
the top of the pack, or it's just essentially going
to be more of the same for the Nationwide
In a series full of moonlighting Cup drivers
with bigger names, sponsorship can sometimes be a
tough sell. Not even the top teams are immune --
Roush Fenway Racing has availability on the
vehicles of Nationwide points leader Stenhouse and
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, full-time
competitors who both drive blank white race cars
more often than they'd like. Those cars are white
to try and generate attention, something that could
be made easier with a contending Patrick in the
"We've gotten phone calls from people the Monday
morning after a guy runs a race [saying],
'Hey, I had no idea that there was availability. I
had no idea you guys didn't have a sponsor. How can
I get involved?' That's certainly our philosophy
when we run the white cars," said Kevin Thomas,
Roush Fenway's vice president of strategic
marketing. "With Danica, if people begin to watch
Nationwide races who haven't historically, and we
have a bigger audience, and someone else can see,
hey, one of our guys is available -- then sure,
that would be terrific. Could it happen?
Absolutely. Will it? I have no idea."
Although she has yet to complete her second
partial season on the Nationwide tour, Patrick is
fast becoming a familiar face. She's been accepted
by NASCAR, and clearly her full-time plans for next
season indicate that she accepts the sport. These
are both good things. The by-product, though, is
that one day the novelty will erode, and her mere
presence won't be enough to generate the attention
it once did. That's why winning plays such a
"She's been around long enough, and been in
enough NASCAR races that it's not like she's
completely new to NASCAR," Brown said. "She's going
to have get some results -- ideally win races,
certainly run at the front. Because she's been
around long enough now that there is a novelty
factor, but it's got to be backed up with
Carter agreed. "Years ago, people might say,
'Hey, let's see what this woman is all about.' Now,
that intrigue is kind of gone," he said. "Now it
just boils down to winning. It's not like she's in
her rookie season anymore. She's had arguably more
ink than any other driver over the last so many
years .... She is by no means an unknown quantity
at this point, so I think it's going to revert to
her need to win even earlier."
From the limited returns gathered so far, she
seems completely capable of it. Patrick catches a
lot of grief for having won only once in
major-league auto racing, that on fuel mileage in
an IndyCar event in Japan. Much like her NASCAR
boss Dale Earnhardt Jr., she's often knocked for
receiving a level of attention disproportionate to
her achievements. And yet, to see how well Patrick
raced at Las Vegas in March and at Daytona in July,
to see the progress she's made between this year
and last, to see how her feistiness meshes so
perfectly with the beating and banging nature of
stock cars, to know how good her Hendrick-made cars
are -- anything seems possible.
Even the sight of that No. 7 up front,
contending for race wins. That's the kind of thing
that could stop casual sports fans in their tracks
as they flip past ESPN, or lead potential sponsors
to give the Nationwide Series a second look. "I
think she has the ability to do that, but only if
she's on the lead lap," Carter said. "Very few
sports fans in America, whether they're casual fans
or diehard fans, are willing to tune in to watch
someone who's out of contention. Just look at the
golf ratings when Tiger [Woods] isn't
there. Look at what happens to some of these
major-market franchises when their team is out of
contention for the playoffs during the dog days of
summer. It still boils down to the quality of the
Brown sets the bar high. "She's got to be
running top-10 now on a regular basis," he said.
"And if she wins ... she could be as big as any
name in NASCAR."
already successful in NASCAR
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was noncommittal on reports that
Danica Patrick will race full time for his JR
Motorsports Nationwide Series team next year, but
he has been impressed with Patrick's performance on
According to reports by various news outlets, an
announcement of Patrick's plans for 2012 is
expected for next week in Phoenix.
"There ain't been no announcement yet, so I
don't know why you would go report that," Earnhardt
said Friday at Michigan. "We've enjoyed working
with her and would love to keep working with her.
When there's something to announce, they'll
announce it, and we'll just wait until that
happens, I guess."
Though Patrick has but one top-five (fourth at
Las Vegas in March) and three top-10 finishes in 19
Nationwide starts during the past two seasons,
Earnhardt said she has made significant progress
since her debut at Daytona in February 2010.
"I think what she's accomplished already has
been success, in my opinion," Earnhardt said. "She
obviously would want to continue to improve and
compete for wins and win races. It's tough to learn
new cars, to learn a new vehicle and be able to
drive it well and do well in it and adapt to it. I
think she's done that.
"She's awesome about it, and she's really done a
great job. She seems like she's fun to work with,
and no matter whether you're a man or woman, people
have to be able to get along with you, and you have
to be able to be a people person and manage people
and manage relationships. She seems to do a great
job of that."
Jimmie Johnson has a perspective on Bristol
Motor Speedway that only a driver can have.
Although races at Bristol aren't as wild as they
used to be when the bottom groove was the only way
around the .533-mile short track, races there
remain a challenge. Drivers complete a lap in less
than 16 seconds and often don't have time to react
to an accident in front of them.
Limited visibility can be an issue, too.
"When you go into a corner at Bristol, the
radius of the turn is so sharp that you would
literally need a sun roof to see the exit of the
corner, because you go in the corner and the exit
is over here," Johnson said, pointing to the left.
"So not only are you going really fast in a small
area, you can't see much. You only see, as you are
going into the corner, you can maybe only see five
car lengths in front of you -- six car lengths.
"When something happens, you see it late and
then you are going fast and you can't stop and
there's no room, and it just compounds from there
and puts on exciting races -- exciting stuff. It
puts us in a position where we just have to build a
lot of trust in spotters and assume things are OK
in front of you and just hope for the best."
The Sprint Cup Series shifts to Bristol after
Sunday's Pure Michigan 400.
IndyCar's Danica Patrick
still learning road-course nuances
Danica Patrick is off to another slow start, bogged
down by an IndyCar schedule front-loaded with road
and street courses.
Frustrated? Certainly. Patrick wants to win
every race she enters, whether it's on the ovals
she prefers or those tougher-to-handle winding
But is she discouraged yet? Not quite. If
anything, Patrick is heartened by the first two
races, even if they have left her 16th in the
standings. She is, despite the so-so results,
"I actually think this year has been really
good," Patrick said. "The results just haven't been
Coming from an oval background, Patrick has
never particularly liked road and street courses.
She has had some successes here and there,
including a second at Belle Isle in Detroit in
2007, fourth at Long Beach in 2009 and fifth at
Infineon the year before. She just hasn't been
This season, Patrick has been much better in
practice, regularly pulling in among the top 15
cars. She has struggled in qualifying, though,
which is much more important on street and road
courses than ovals.
Forced to fight her way through a bottled-up
field, Patrick has shown plenty of speed through
the first two races, posting fastest lap times in
both, and driving into the top 10 for a while at
Alabama last week after starting 22nd.
She just hasn't had much luck during the
At the series opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.,
Patrick damaged the nose of her car after running
into the back of Justin Wilson near the midpoint of
the race and wasn't able to make up ground,
finishing 12th after being penalized a spot for
making avoidable contact on the final lap.
Patrick overcame another struggle in qualifying
at Barber Motorsports Park, moving up to seventh,
then third after the team decided to not take
tires. The pit strategy backfired and Patrick ended
"Ultimately, when you don't qualify well, you're
forced to take risks, and sometimes those risks
don't pay off," said Patrick, in her second year
juggling an IndyCar season and a part-time run in
the NASCAR Nationwide Series. "So it's good to be
up the grid."
Patrick's improvement, though gradual, has been
as expected for a driver who grew up on ovals
trying to tackle courses that have right turns,
It seems so easy; if you're a race-car driver,
you can race anywhere. But making the switch from
ovals to road courses takes a completely different
set of skills, not to mention mind-set.
In oval racing, drivers get the car into gear
and cruise along -- albeit at over 200 mph --
working with the engineers along the way to get the
setup just right.
Road racing requires so much more from the
drivers, from all the shifting to picking lines for
a multitude of corners to the physical toll of
jostling back and forth.
"There's a lot more going on the road course,"
said Jimmy Vasser, a co-owner of KV Racing
Technology and a former driver. "You're upshifting,
downshifting, turning left, turning right -- it's a
lot more violent of a ride, your head's moving
around, just violent. In ovals, it's just serene
and kind of quiet, really dealing with just the
The mentality is a little different, too.
On ovals, drivers look to go flat out all the
time, and the slightest imbalance in the car,
whether a tire or a spoiler, can throw a wrench
into the whole thing.
Road courses allow drivers to be a little more
aggressive, maybe try to overcome imperfections in
handling by muscling the car around the track.
The circuit's best drivers, like Dario
Franchitti and Helio Castroneves, find a balance
between the two styles of racing. Most of the
others need time to figure it out, if they ever
"It takes a few years. The car has to do the
work because if something's not right with the car,
you have to come in and fix it," Vasser said of
ovals. "You can't just say, 'I'm going to go a
little faster and deal with it,' because then
you'll be in the fence. But you can have that
mentality on a street circuit, you can carry a car
and throw it around a little bit, be more
Patrick Trying to
Live Up to Racing's High Expectations
Danica Patrick is getting used to swapping back and
forth between NASCAR and IndyCar.
She makes smooth transitions between the
different terminology and technology. She has no
trouble adjusting to the diverse feel between the
peppy and sophisticated open-wheel cars and the
bulky and often testy stock cars. She even balances
questions about the challenges both cars provide,
trying hard not to offend anyone in either
She's also well versed in one, all-important
As Patrick makes the move from NASCAR's
Nationwide Series to the IndyCar season opener for
the second time in as many years, she welcomes the
high aspirations that come with returning to her
primary racing career.
"That is what I expect, to run up front every
weekend," Patrick said Friday on her 29th birthday,
two days before the Honda Grand Prix of St.
Petersburg. "With that kind of goal, maybe perhaps
you're a little more disappointed more often. If
the goal is to win every weekend, there's not that
many people that win every weekend. It's just that
Patrick has one victory in 98 career IndyCar
starts, and with Chip Ganassi's powerhouse team
doubling to four cars in 2011 and Penske Racing's
three-car team eager to reclaim the championship
after a four-year drought, she could face even more
competition in her seventh season.
Nonetheless, she's been encouraged by preseason
test sessions as well as the confidence
boost she's received from leaving the Nationwide
Series ninth in points.
Now, it's back to IndyCars.
Patrick Ready for Jump to
There are no stars in Danica Patrick's eyes. Since
she has been a little girl, she has understood the
demands of a racing career. She gets it. This is
not a woman trying to be a race car driver. This is
a race car driver who happens to be a woman.
Attractive and personable, she has a race car
driver's personality. She can be edgy. When it
comes to her career, she carefully calibrates
everything. She makes no moves that are not well
thought out. Emotion does not enter into it, one of
the reasons she has no much potential on the
And right now, Patrick is exploring the biggest
move of her life, a switch from open wheel racing,
which is the way she came up, to NASCAR, the NFL of
It could happen. Her Indy car contract with
Andretti Autosport expires after 2012, and things
are not going well there. There was friction on the
team last year, and Patrick, who has the pressure
of enormous expectations after becoming the first
woman to lead the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2005 and
the first woman ever to win a race in a major
series with her 2008 victory at Motegi, Japan,
might be up for a change.
Then again, maybe not. The biggest problem with
NASCAR is the demands on her time. Patrick wants a
life outside of racing, and NASCAR drivers pretty
much forfeit that. But she is also driven to
succeed, and if she feels that opportunity doesn't
exist in Indy cars, she may be willling to
"Anytime something opens up, you have to be open
to it," she said at Daytona, where she will begin
her second year of dabbling in NASCAR ranks
Saturday in the Nationwide Series race. Under terms
of her Indy car contract, she essentially runs
NASCAR before and after the Indy car season.
She races Nationwide for JR Motorsports,
potentially a powerhouse team owned jointly by Dale
Earnhardt Jr., Rick Hendrick and Tony Eury Jr. Her
crew chief is Tony Eury Sr. Over the years, the
Eurys and the Earnhardts have been a formidable
combination at all levels of the sport.
Patrick ran 13 races last year and will do 13
more this season, when her contract expires. Then,
a decision will have to be made. Her reviews were
mixed, although again, because of who she is, the
expectations were probably out of line. The fact is
that the only way she can find out how good she is
in race cars with fenders is to jump in with both
feet, not just stick her toe in the water.
"I have a lot of the same goals I had last
year," she said. "I want to run laps, finish races.
Last year, things got to me a little bit. I was
pretty optimistic after the preseason test, then
reality set it. It's OK if you don't set the world
on fire. That's not realistic.
"I only ran 13 races last year and they were
spread out, and I'm running 13 more this year.
That's two-thirds of a season. It's going to take
me three years to get a full season in. By the end
of the year we were running better, although the
results didn't show it. Sometimes you just have a
bad weekend. That doesn't make you a bad driver,"
"This takes time. I don't know at what point I
should espect to be fast every single weekend. I'm
starting to understand the car, how it needs to
handle at the beginning of a run to make it handle
good at the end of a run," she added.
Patrick has solid support from her owners,
including Earnhardt Jr., who knows a little bit
about what it's like to live under a microscope,
about unrealistic expectations. "She brings a new
energy to our company," he said. "I think she
really came a long way for how much racing she
Earnhardt is open to re-signing Patrick after
this season and Patrick understands that a team
with Hendrick backing is a pretty good place to be.
It is not even out of the question that this team
could eventually move up to Sprint Cup.
And given the lack of success Earnhardt has had
at Hendrick, who knows? Eventually, JR Motorsports
could be fielding cars for both of them, and that
would be a NASCAR dream come true. Danica Patrick
and Dale Earnhardt Jr. competing to win the Daytona
500. NASCAR officials would think they died and
went to heaven.
Patrick makes history with
As Mark Martin climbed out of his winning race car
in Victory Lane on Saturday afternoon, another,
smaller celebration was unfolding along pit road at
Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Danica Patrick exchanged
jubilant hugs and handclaps with other drivers and
members of her crew, and then turned and waved at
the crowd that had witnessed her breakthrough
finish in the Nationwide Series.
Pairing fuel strategy with an improving ability
to race side-by-side in stock cars, Patrick rallied
from two laps down to finish fourth, her best
result since the IndyCar regular began her
part-time foray into NASCAR last year. Patrick got
one lap back via a wave-around, made up another
thanks to the free pass, and had enough fuel to run
to the end as several other contenders were forced
to stop on pit road.
"To be honest, I think we're making some real
progress," said Patrick, whose previous best
Nationwide finish was 14th, at Daytona two weeks
ago. "We make progress every weekend, but it's just
a matter of, are you on the lead lap and in
position to take advantage by the end of the
Saturday, she was. In the process, she recorded
the best finish by a female driver ever in a NASCAR
national series, topping the fifth-place result
turned in by Sara Christian at Heidelburg Raceway
in Pittsburgh in 1949.
"I think it's huge," said Patrick's crew chief,
Tony Eury Jr. "I think it's going to help her out
tremendously. I think Daytona was a really big step
for her. Last week at Phoenix, we know short-track
racing is kind of one of her issues. The mile
and-a-halfs, I told her by the end of
[last] year she was doing great at that,
and it was just a matter of putting a whole race
Patrick still had her issues at Las Vegas,
including a mediocre qualifying effort and a spin
on the opening day of Nationwide practice on
Thursday. But her improvement as a stock-car racer
was evident Saturday, particularly in the way she
spent several patient laps dueling with Daytona 500
champion Trevor Bayne. Patrick used some lapped
traffic to get by on the low side, then picked off
Nationwide regular Brian Scott for the 10th
position, and the off-cycle pit stops she had made
earlier in the event carried her from there.
"It's nice to race with those guys," Patrick
said. "They teach me. They really teach me how I
need to run. [Bayne] has been having lots
of good experience with Sprint Cup and with
Nationwide, and he's been doing really well. He
taught me how to prevent somebody from getting by
too easily. He was right there tight on my right
side, and I'm telling you, man, I was loose as all
getup next to him. But that's how you learn how to
Patrick's No. 7 team entered the weekend
harboring secret hopes of a top-10 finish, based on
the lap times she turned at Las Vegas last season
and the progress she made on intermediate tracks
toward the end of the year. "I didn't want to say
that to the media, because then you'd expect me to
finish in the top 10," she said. They'll gladly
take the top-five instead.
"It's very easy for her to run in the top 15 in
this series," Eury said, "and we thought -- hey,
Vegas, we ran really good out there last year, we
ought to be able to run top 10. Today we had a
ninth-place car and fuel strategy kind of gave us a
top five, so it's a bonus."
Now Patrick has a week to celebrate, and to
think about her next start, at a very different
kind of track -- half-mile, high-banked Bristol
Motor Speedway, a facility at which she'll be
competing for the first time.
"I don't know if it's good to have a top-five
going into Bristol," she joked. "But hey, just like
any weekend, you'll take a good result. I don't
want this to create any sort of false expectations
that I'm going to go out and go for a top-five or a
top-10 at Bristol. My goal at Bristol is to finish
and not be more than 10 laps down, I think, given
the size of it. When I tell people that Bristol is
my next track, they're like, 'Oh. Oh.' So they're
kind of putting me in kind of a scared
Clint Bowyer Wins Pole for
Nationwide Race at Daytona, Danica Fourth
Up until the final few minutes of Friday's NASCAR
Nationwide Series qualifying, it looked as if
IndyCar star-turned-NASCAR newbie Danica Patrick
may just have landed herself the pole position at
stock car's most famous track, Daytona
Midway through the session Patrick laid down the
fastest lap of the afternoon bumping veteran Carl
Edwards off the top spot and igniting a buzz around
the garage area. Had her lap stood, she would have
been the first woman to win a Nationwide Series
pole since Shawna Robinson did it in March
Instead, another newcomer, Landon Cassill,
knocked Patrick out of the top spot only to have
Sprint Cup Series veteran Clint Bowyer come in and
better them both. Bowyer's lap of 180.821 mph in
the Kevin Harvick-owned No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet
earned the former series champ the pole position
for Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 and stifled the
building frenzy around a possible Patrick front row
Cassill will start alongside him while another
late qualifier Dale Earnhardt Jr,. took the third
position. He'll start next to Patrick on the second
row; he owns both cars.
This is only Patrick's 13th Nationwide Series
start in her highly-publicized racing double as a
full-time driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series and a
part-timer in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide
"It's been a fast car the whole time we've been
here,'' Patrick said, as she watched the remaining
few cars qualify. "No matter what happens now,
it'll be a good starting position. This is a big
deal and for it to come at Daytona, it's 10 times a
Nationwide schedule finalized
Danica to race 12 times in second season, and
venture to four new tracks
JR Motorsports general manager Kelley Earnhardt
announced Wednesday the 2011 Nationwide Series
schedule for Danica Patrick.
Patrick's tour will closely resemble her rookie
campaign in that she will compete in a cluster of
races on the front and back ends of the Nationwide
schedule. She will appear in select races during
the middle parts of the year while competing full
time in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Patrick's 2011
NASCAR plans feature 12 races across 10 markets.
Four of those markets will host Patrick for the
first time in a stock car.
Necessity, rather than track preference, was the
biggest factor in determining Patrick's schedule
"The majority of the reasons for going to
certain tracks really have to do with the schedule
-- the IndyCar schedule," Patrick said. "Once the
IndyCar season starts, I'm not allowed to do any
[NASCAR] races until after the Indy 500,
and then it's only one per month until the IndyCar
season's over with."
As of July 9,
As of July 9, Danica ranks 25th in the
Nationwide Series with only 6 races. She has 1 top
5 and 3 top 10s.
Drivers who have completed 17 races:
Danica stands 25th in NASCARs Nationwide series
and has more Top 5 and Top 10 finishes than 16 of
the top 24 drivers. Most of them have run all 17
races. She's only run 6.
8th place Steve Wallace 1/2
9th Brian Scott 0/3
10th Michael Annett 0/3
11th John Wise 0/2
12th Mike Wallace 1/2
13th Mike Bliss 0/0
16th Jeremy Clements 0/0
19th Eric McClure 0/0
20 Morgan Shepherd 0/0
15th Joe Nemecheck with 15 races and 1/1
17th Timmy Hill with 16 races and 0/0
18th Derrike Cope with 16 races and 0/0
21st Blke Koch 15 races 0/0
22nd Ryan Truex 10 races with 0/1
23rd Scott Wimmer with 14 races and 0/0
24th Robert Richardson Jr with 14 races and
NASCAR Nationwide Race Stats
"This is going to be an exciting year in the No.
7 Chevrolet," said Patrick, who scored a
career-best fifth-place start and 19th-place finish
in the 2010 finale at Homestead-Miami. "I have a
much different perspective heading into this
season. I know a little more of what to expect, and
I'm not as out of my element. I've had a year to
work with my team, and there is a comfort level
that comes with returning to some of these tracks.
It's obvious experience goes a long way in this
Race tracks that were not on Patrick's 2010
schedule, but are among her 2011 plans, are
Bristol, Richmond, Kansas and Circuit Gilles
Villeneuve, which is located in Montreal, Quebec,
Canada. Patrick has raced at Richmond and Kansas in
the IndyCar Series.
GoDaddy.com will serve as primary sponsor for 11
of the 12 races with Patrick on the No. 7
2011 IRL Results
San Paulo, Brazil
Fort Worth - Race 1
Fort Worth - Race 2
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