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Danica Patrick to kiss IRL goodbye, or just a ploy to squeeze IRL? UPDATE #9 The question her fans are asking most often is whether or not she'll try to move to NASCAR, following the lead of Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr. Franchitti struggled with the heavier stock cars last year and came back to IndyCar this season.  "The NASCAR rumors are true," Patrick confirmed. "We're definitely exploring all the opportunities that are out there for me as a driver and as a business and a brand."

07/26/09 Looks like it might be time to scratch Danica Patrick from the NASCAR game for 2010.  Or at least mark her down for a "probably not."  The Indy-car star, in her whirlwind tour through several top North Carolina stock car shops last week with one of her business agents, apparently didn't have a very enticing racing game plan to offer various NASCAR team owners. And the particular agent who accompanied her seemingly didn't know that much about NASCAR racing and had some unrealistic expectations, according to those talking with them.

Now Chip Ganassi, who has both NASCAR and Indy-car teams, has taken his name out of the Danica sweepstakes.

And Jack Roush's Geoff Smith, head of Roush Fenway Racing, says his company's interest in the hot marketing star may be fading too.

Smith said Patrick's presentation was filled with too many "conditions," and Smith questions whether Patrick is really willing to make the drastic lifestyle change running the NASCAR tour would demand.

And it's also unclear if Patrick's NASCAR gambit is just to gain leverage in negotiations for a new Indy-car contract. Her current contract with Andretti-Green is up at the end of this season. mikemulhern.net

[Editor's Note: Prediction, she will end up at Ganassi Racing, giving her a better shot at winning the Indy 500, and Ganassi will also run her in a few Nationwide races to see if she has what it takes.]

07/24/09 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing co-owner Chip Ganassi says he would entertain the idea of fielding a NASCAR Nationwide Series entry next season for IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick but that any discussions are only in their preliminary stages.  Patrick, who is a free agent at the end of the season, is thought be considering a move to NASCAR but has said that it might be October before she announces any plans.

Ganassi, speaking Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he recently spent about an hour talking with Patrick about her future. If Ganassi did field Patrick in a Nationwide car, he said it might be through a joint venture with another organization.

“If I told you I didn’t have any conversation about that or I wasn’t interested in that, I’d be lying to you,” Ganassi said. “I, like a lot of teams, have had discussions and she’s on the market right now and she’s ready to make the next step in her career wherever that takes her. I wish I could tell you I’m a lot further down the road on that, but I think the fact of the matter is like most other teams, we’re in the top of the first inning on that subject. … It’s way early.”

Ganassi by no means appears set on hiring Patrick, easily the most recognizable female driver in motorsports, even if she came to NASCAR. However, Ganassi's IndyCar team is considered to be one of the favorites to land her for the open-wheel circuit, where Ganassi has one of the top teams.

“If she wanted to do NASCAR on a full-time basis, I would suggest that there are better places for her to go and do it with,” he said.

Ganassi believes that Patrick, who finished third in this year’s Indianapolis 500 and has one IndyCar win, may be on the cusp of reaching the next level of her IndyCar career and that she should be in no hurry to make the move to stock cars.

“She’s one of those athletes that, she can make a lot of turns in her career today and she’ll have the opportunity to make those career moves into the foreseeable future, so it’s up to her,” Ganassi said. SceneDaily.com

07/24/09 Chip Ganassi says he counseled Danica Patrick to finish all her IndyCar goals before moving to NASCAR.  Patrick has not ruled out NASCAR for next season and recently visited several race shops in North Carolina.  Ganassi, who owns teams in IndyCar, NASCAR and Grand-Am, says he spoke with Patrick recently for about an hour to discuss her goals. He says he told her she's on the verge of accomplishing huge achievements in IndyCar and has plenty of time to finish business there before switching series. He doesn't believe he's the right fit for Patrick in NASCAR and says he's only "maybe" interested in adding her to his IndyCar team. AP

07/18/09 Danica Patrick's well-publicized visit to Stewart-Haas Racing on Monday was just one of five shop tours the popular IndyCar Series driver took during her visit to NASCAR country. Industry sources say she also visited the shops at Roush Fenway Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing, all just north of Charlotte. SportsBusinesDaily.com

07/14/09  Yet another NASCAR team trying to snatch Danica Patrick up. Danica Patrick was a guest of team owner Tony Stewart last fall at Phoenix. But the two-time Cup champion was not available to be a guide Monday because he was at a Goodyear tire test at Atlanta Motor Speedway. According to sources, Patrick was at the Stewart shop yesterday and was introduced to Ryan Newman, crew chief Tony Gibson, General Manager Bobby Hutchens and engineer Matt Borland. The tour included stops in the fabrication shop and a look at the seven-post shaker rig. FoxSports 

Danica Patrick, whose future in NASCAR has been the topic of hot debate these past few weeks, made an unexpected drop-in at Tony Stewart's NASCAR shop Monday, general manager Bobby Hutchens confirmed.  "Yes, she was just checking out the place, to see what this stuff is all about," Hutchens said.  "I'm not exactly sure what her deal is....but she's a racer." MikeMulhern.net [She just came through the door uninvited?  Yeah right.]

07/01/09 "One of the things I think of is the exposure level that your get in NASCAR, with the ratings and the viewership," Patrick told the New York Times. "Their numbers are so much larger than ours, and with that comes a bigger following, comes more popularity, comes more demand for you to endorse other products. So I think it would be an exponential sort of growth."

Patrick admitted her career path also would be guided by her ability to market herself away from the racetrack. She makes $7 million a year, according to Forbes, but she easily could triple that in NASCAR.

"My brand is determined. It's feminine and hopefully - I feel a little bit awkward talking about myself like this - but something beautiful, something fast, something interesting and exciting and something inspiring and something iconic and something doing things that's never been done before," she said in a teleconference earlier this month.

NASCAR already is building a connection in case she joins other IndyCar drivers such as Tony Stewart, Sam Hornish and Juan Pablo Montoya in the migration to NASCAR. Her souvenirs already are available on NASCAR.com - when they're not sold out, so what does that tell you about where her future lies.  NASCAR selling merchandise of a driver from a rival league - fat chance in hell unless they know Patrick is headed their way.

06/28/09 If Danica Patrick does jump from the Indy Racing League to NASCAR, as increasingly appears likely, the battle for her, according to sources close to the negotiations, is down to car owners Rick Hendrick, of Chevrolet, and Jack Roush, of Ford. According to these sources, Hendrick and General Motors' Chevrolet division are now suddenly the heavy favorites to sign Patrick. And the key would apparently be Hendrick's willingness to put her in a Sprint Cup ride for the full 2010 season. Roush has said he would like to see her run some NASCAR Nationwide and/or Truck events, along with six or seven Cup events, to get her accustomed to stock car racing. Hendrick reportedly is willing to go further. Patrick might take Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s spot on Hendrick's official four-team Cup roster, with Earnhardt moving to an expanded JR Motorsports operation. JR Motorsports, Earnhardt's own operation, run in partnership with Hendrick, would thus be stepping up to a full Cup program; Hendrick has already been talking with Talladega winner Brad Keselowski about Keselowski's future in NASCAR, with indications he could get a Cup ride with an expanded JR Motorsports venture, with Hendrick engines and Hendrick engineering. It is not clear how far along any Patrick-IMG-Hendrick negotiations have gone, but sources tell mikemulhern.net that the Patrick-Hendrick deal is very close to being a 'done deal.' Mikemulhern.net

06/22/09 Perhaps more evidence that the IRL finally realizes Danica Patrick, their biggest star, is leaving for NASCAR - she led 24 laps of yesterday's race in Iowa and the announcers hardly mentioned it.  Previously the announcers voice would rise with excitement, they blabber nonsense about how great she is, yada yada yada.  If she is going to NASCAR then the IRL has to start weaning their fans off the all Danica kick.

Losing IndyCar's most popular driver, Danica Patrick, to NASCAR will be a severe body blow to the IRL
Danica Patrick will be in a Jack Roush NASCAR Ford next season, bank on it. Well, don't bet the ranch, but there is a growing sense that that is the momentum on the issue, if the sexy Indy-car star does make the leap into stock car racing, as she has hinted. And in the NASCAR garage here at Infineon Raceway Roush himself pondered the Danica option Friday. Patrick herself has been talking around the NASCAR possibility for several weeks now but insists she won't be making any announcement of where she'll be racing next season until this fall after the IRL's finale in Oct. Last weekend Geoff Smith, head of Roush Fenway Racing, talked about the Danica Patrick option.

What does Roush himself think about her as NASCAR stocker?

"I don't know enough about her to know how much time she'd have to spend in the Nationwide series or Truck series," Roush said. "I'd say, as a minimum, two years in the Nationwide series would be required…and at the same time she could run six or seven Cup races, to maintain her rookie status. It just depends on how badly she wants it," Roush says of any Patrick move into NASCAR. Patrick has some big advantages, Roush points out: "I don't know of any problems with Danica Patrick. If a female is going to make it in NASCAR in the foreseeable future, it will be Danica Patrick. mikemulhern.net
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