Patrick to run 10 Sprint Cup races in No. 10 car in 2012

Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart unveil Patrick's 2012 Sprint Cup car,
the No. 10 Chevrolet, Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Patrick will make Cup debut at Daytona 500

For Danica Patrick, it’ll be 10 in 10.

Patrick will run 10 Sprint Cup races in the No. 10 Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012, making her series debut in the Daytona 500.

Eight races of Patrick’s schedule are set, with two events to be announced. In addition to Daytona (Feb. 26), Patrick will compete at Darlington (May 12), the Bristol night race (Aug. 25), Atlanta (Sept. 2), Chicagoland (Sept. 16) and the fall races at Dover (Sept. 30), Texas (Nov. 4) and Phoenix (Nov. 11).

“Today is a huge day for us, this has been a long time coming,” team owner Tony Stewart said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

In coming up with Patrick’s schedule, Stewart said they wanted to choose races that would challenge Patrick and prepare her for a full-time Sprint Cup schedule in 2013. The tracks include three of the toughest on the circuit - Darlington, Bristol and Dover.

“The big thing is keeping everything in mind that it’s a learning year next year,” Stewart said. “The experience that she’s going to gain at these race tracks, it’s hard to get that by doing anything but going there and learning by putting laps in.

“It’s an aggressive schedule and an ambitious one for somebody that hasn’t been in a Cup car yet, but at the same time, to compete at this level, you’re going to have to be good at these tracks and that’s why we selected them.”

Stewart said two dates are being kept open in order to assess Patrick’s development in Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series. Patrick will be running a full Nationwide schedule next year for JR Motorsports after running part-time in the series the last two seasons.

“If we see a place or if Danica feels there’s a track where she felt like she struggled at, we can plug those two dates in,” Stewart said.

On her Cup schedule, Patrick said, “Darlington will be a handful. I actually enjoyed Bristol, but I’m betting that once I get out there with you guys, it’s going to be a whole other level. I know Atlanta is pretty challenging and has some unique characteristics … Dover was a handful last year. But we’ll be in Chicago and Texas, which are places I feel a little bit more comfortable."

“It’s about making the most complete future possible with a limited schedule of experience, so, thanks a lot, Tony,” Patrick said with a laugh.

“I’m just worried about how far into this 10-race deal before she absolutely hates me because of where I’m sending her,” Stewart joked.

Patrick’s No. 10 lime green GoDaddy Chevrolet Impala was unveiled Friday at Texas. Though the green paint scheme looks familiar, the number may not be to Patrick fans. Patrick has driven the No. 7 throughout her IndyCar career and since she entered the Nationwide Series in 2010.

The No. 7 is off limits to Patrick and SHR in Sprint Cup because Robby Gordon owns the number.

But the No. 10 has special significance for Patrick. She ran the number early in her racing career, in her karting days before moving to Europe, where she competed in Formula Ford and Formula Vauxhall.

“My favorite number has always been No. 10,” Patrick said. “... This is the first time in my professional career that I’ve ever been able to choose my own number. There's a lot of emotion in it for me.”

Patrick joins Stewart and SHR teammate Ryan Newman in choosing numbers they ran earlier in their careers. Stewart raced the No. 14 in go karts, and it was also the number used by his racing hero, A.J. Foyt. Newman used the No. 39 at the start of his career in Quarter Midgets.

For Patrick’s debut in the 2012 Daytona 500, she will have to qualify on time. Patrick said there are no plans at the present to swap points to ensure she makes NASCAR’s biggest race. Stewart did say he and Newman will do all they can to help their new teammate get in the race.

Stewart said the organization is still in the process of finding a crew chief to lead the No. 10 team.

"It's very much a marriage, finding the right personalities," Stewart said.

After a seven-year career in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Patrick will be looking to Stewart, the 1997 IndyCar champion and open-wheel veteran, to guide her in her move to NASCAR’s top level.

“There were a lot of reasons why Stewart-Haas Racing made sense for me, but probably the biggest reason was Tony Stewart,” Patrick said. “He’s already done what I’m trying to do – make the transition from open-wheel cars to stock cars. If there’s anyone who knows what I need to do and what I need to look out for, it’s him.”

Stewart said, “It’s been a fun journey for me and I think that’s what’s going to make this such a fun journey with Danica is knowing that the things that she’s going to be experiencing, going from the IndyCars to the Cup cars, is the same thing that I had to go through to, so it’s a nice feeling for me knowing that when she talks about something, I’m going to understand it from firsthand experience.”
Patrick to run 10 Sprint Cup races in No. 10 car in 2012 Patrick to run 10 Sprint Cup races in No. 10 car in 2012 Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Friday, November 04, 2011 Rating: 5