Whether you love her or hate her, looks like Danica Patrick will be driving a stock car next year.
The rumors have been flying for months, but ESPN reporter Ryan McGee broke the news last week that apparently the IndyCar star is close to signing a deal with JR Motorsports, under the helm of fellow GoDaddy.com spokesperson Dale Earnhardt Jr. According to the report, the two-year deal will have Patrick race part-time in the ARCA and Nationwide series while running a full-time schedule in the IRL in 2010. The deal is expected to be finalized within days.
The schedule sounds grueling, but it will allow Patrick to wade into the NASCAR pool. The 2005 IRL Rookie of the Year will need time adjusting to the many differences between a stock car and an open-wheeler.
I, for one, am thrilled that Patrick may be making her way to NASCAR as early as the Daytona ARCA race in February. I want Danica to succeed in NASCAR, and here's why:
1) The move will bring more attention to NASCAR. The ARCA and Nationwide series do not receive the exposure that the Sprint Cup Series and it cast of characters do. Having a crossover star like Patrick in ARCA and Nationwide will increase interest outside of NASCAR and therefore media coverage of the races she runs. Patrick will also bring her fan base to the sport, which could help increase sagging TV ratings and race attendance.
2) More sponsors will come calling. NASCAR is a money-driven sport. Patrick has proven to be a successful commodity, and where she goes, so does the money. If Patrick makes the move to NASCAR, she would bring her sponsors with her (GoDaddy.com, which sponsors Patrick in IndyCar, would reportedly sponsor her Nationwide ride.) The move would also likely attract new sponsors wanting a piece of the action. It's a win-win situation for a sport that's been especially hard-hit by the economic downturn.
3) I want to see a woman succeed in the sport. I'm 27 years old. Patrick is 27 years old. That and the fact we like racing may be the only things we have in common, but I would like to see someone like me win a NASCAR race. No woman has ever won a race in any of the three top-tier NASCAR series. Some Patrick stats: She was the first woman to lead a lap in the Indy 500. She finished 3rd in this year's race, the highest finish ever for a woman in the Indy 500. She ended the 2009 IRL season fifth in points, beating her teammate, championship-winning driver Tony Kanaan. With her 2008 win in Japan, Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar race. With these stats, I would like to see what Patrick can do in NASCAR.
I've cheered for female drivers in ARCA and truck races, only to see them fall short. I realize the same thing might happen with Patrick. After all, IRL champions like Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr. have tried to make it in NASCAR, with lackluster results. Franchitti's Cup team shut down last year, and Hornish is still struggling after making his Cup debut in 2007.
But I'm willing to give Patrick a chance. If she wants to take a chance on NASCAR, why shouldn't we take one on her? It's my hope that NASCAR and its fans will give her one.
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the writer and not Skirts and Scuffs. How do you think Patrick will fare in NASCAR? Please leave your comments below.