Danica Patrick all in with NASCAR
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Danica Patrick says the odds of her Sprint Cup debut being in the 2012 Daytona 500 are pretty good.
Racing in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 she's not so sure about.
"I'll probably be in one of them,'' Patrick told ESPN.com Thursday as she made her move from the IndyCar Series to NASCAR in 2012 official. "Both? I love Indy, but at this point and time we're real unsure about Indy for next year.''
What Patrick knows for sure is she'll drive a full Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorssports, which has fielded a part-time Nationwide car last season and this season, and eight to 10 Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing, with sponsor GoDaddy.com on the both cars.
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Patrick said the plan is to move full-time to Cup for SHR in 2013 with GoDaddy.com as her sponsor.
"Whatever Danica does I hope there's room for me,"' said Bob Parsons, the CEO and founder of GoDaddy.com, which began its partnership with Patrick in 2005. "She's been very good for us to be around.''
There has been speculation SHR may run a third car full-time in 2012, with Patrick splitting the ride with another driver. One name that comes up is Mark Martin, who is driving the GoDaddy.com-sponsored Cup car for Hendrick Motorsports this season.
"I've heard that, too,'' Patrick said. "I really don't know. It could be a great thing, though, to be able to have somebody to drive that car every week and keep it in points so I'm always in the race.
"They (GoDaddy.com) supported Mark obviously at Hendrick. Maybe that's something they are looking into.''
Officials at SHR said many things would have to happen to get to the point of fielding a third car full-time, and the priority is hiring the personnel to be prepared for Danica's part-time schedule.
Patrick said she didn't know who her crew chief in Cup would be, but didn't rule out Tony Eury Jr., who works with her at JRM.
"I do know I really enjoy working with him,'' said Patrick, whose average finish in Nationwide has improved from 28.0 in 2010 to 16.0 in 2011. "He is a fantastic crew chief that is really good. I can barely make sense about what I'm saying (on the radio about the car) and he manages to make the car better.
"He's got a lot of talent.''
The biggest remaining question for Patrick on the Cup side is what number she will have. The No. 7 she has used throughout her racing career is owned by Robby Gordon.
"At this point it's undecided,'' Patrick said. "Obviously, I've had the lucky No. 7 for a while. That will continue for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide program. Cup we're not sure yet. I'm open to anything.
"Again, there are so many details we have to finalize and there'll probably be little announcements all the while.''
Danica has always been a great ambassador for IndyCar, and there is no doubt she has left a positive impression on our sport. She has touched millions of fans and many that were new to motorsports.” -- IndyCar chairman Randy Bernard
Patrick said it was apparent her future was in NASCAR the first time she drove a stock car, when she finished sixth in the 2010 ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway.
But she said serious negotiations to make this move didn't begin until this season.
"I never had so much fun in a race car,'' Patrick said of her ARCA debut. "I was grinning ear to ear. I was a little more coy about it at the time because I still had to drive IndyCar, but that was the start of that little seed that grew into really loving this car.''
DIS president Joie Chitwood can't imagine Patrick beginning her Cup career anywhere but the Daytona 500.
"Daytona International Raceway provides an ideal backdrop for Danica to launch a full-time NASCAR career,'' he said.
Patrick's announcement certainly was one NASCAR has been eager to hear. Chairman Brian France typically doesn't put out statements when new drivers enter the series, but he did with Patrick.
"We are pleased Danica Patrick has chosen to race full-time in NASCAR in 2012,'' France said. "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 week-to-week basis.
"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."
The move is considered a setback for IndyCar, where Patrick has been the most popular driver for much of the past six seasons.
"Danica has always been a great ambassador for IndyCar, and there is no doubt she has left a positive impression on our sport,'' chairman Randy Bernard said. "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 direction.''
Patrick said the decision to leave IndyCar was hard, but obvious.
"This is a big change,'' she said. "In the end, it became clear how much I really enjoy driving these cars and the style of racing and everything involved. It became clear. It really did.''
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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