Despite the wide belief that such a move would do nothing to further her career, Danica Patrick is apparently moving to NASCAR in 2010. According to ESPN, she isn’t giving up on the IRL, however; racing only in Nationwide Series and Trucks next year.
Not sure why this hasn’t happened sooner, actually. I mean, aside from the increased money, TV ratings, sponsorships and U.S. profile, there’s really no upside for Patrick to make this switch.
Tony Stewart is the “star candidate” to be her partner and mentor in NASCAR, the source said, adding that Patrick’s recent visits to Stewart-Haas Racing were much more than social — that she and Stewart were discussing a deal, and are close to one.
“I can pretty much guarantee at some point she’s going to be over here,” Stewart told reporters Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, meaning NASCAR in general and hinting at something the source confirmed and clarified.
Her contract with the Andretti Green racing team expires after this season, and Patrick has said that she’s interested in shifting gears. From THE NEW YORK TIMES:
“I’m very flattered everyone is curious,” said Patrick, who finished 19th in the I.R.L.’s season-opening race, April 5 in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It’s interesting to me as well. Do I stay where I am? Do I try to change? It’s all about evaluating options, and I think that’s something any good businessperson does.”
As THE TIMES notes, no woman has ever won a Sprint Cup race, or even run a full season. Nor will Patrick in 2010 … she’s easing in to it, reportedly, by not participating on the Cup circuit.
But will Patrick be more than an oddity in NASCAR? In pushing the Danica brand, is she forgetting Danica the driver?
Janet Guthrie, 71, was a trailblazer in American motor sports in the 1970s, when she became the first woman to compete at the highest level in open-wheel racing and in NASCAR.
“She should stay where she is,” Guthrie said. “She is in the best possible situation in I.R.L., in the catbird seat with one of the few teams that is capable of winning.”