Stewart, Earnhardt Jr. non-committal about Danica
Tony Stewart remains non-committal about reports that he plans to make Danica Patrick part of his team's Sprint Cup program and have her run a partial schedule in 2012. "I've heard all kinds of stuff," said Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, on Friday. "I can't say anything (about the rumors)."
But that hasn't stopped discussion of the possibility this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
Although Patrick is not at Pocono (she's at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, prepping for Sunday's Honda Indy 200), all indications are she will commit her efforts to NASCAR in 2012.
Patrick, running a partial schedule this season for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports, is expected to ramp up her efforts with a full Nationwide Series schedule.
Earnhardt, however, was not ready to confirm the deal Friday.
"Nothing new to report on that," Earnhardt said. "I don't know nothing that I didn't know last week.".
Earnhardt, however, was clear that Patrick, 29, needed the apprenticeship that his team has provided the last two seasons.
"Anyone that comes into the sport — anyone — needs two to three years in the trucks and Nationwide Series to step into Cup Series and be comfortable," Earnhardt said. "Two or three years in Nationwide Series is a pretty decent amount (but even that) would be rushing it in my mind. Cup cars are a real challenge and the travel and the series itself is just a big old pool to jump in right off the bat."
Any deal with JR Motorsports might also include Mark Martin, who would not only drive, but help mentor Patrick. But Earnhardt said any decision will be affected by sponsorship and the bottom line.
"We can't consider adding to our program without money — and money's tight," he said.