Danica to NASCAR - was it all a PR stunt?
UPDATE #4 It looks like it's time to scratch any Danica-to-NASCAR deal...just like team owner Rick Hendrick suggested a couple weeks ago. Danica Patrick is finally opening up a little about her NASCAR options in 2010, but there doesn't appear to be much fire in the belly about it all. At a press conference Tuesday the Indy-car star talked about her new two-year Indy Racing League contract with Michael Andretti, and a little about NASCAR. Monday in New York City, on ABC's Good Morning America, she pretty much blew off questions about NASCAR.
"I understand the level of curiosity on the NASCAR side of things," Patrick said Tuesday. "But the primary focus Monday was to announce our Indy-car program and our new sponsorship with Go Daddy. It's important that everyone was focusing on that and not things that aren't true. I've made no mystery that I'm curious about NASCAR and I would like to do it. If I had the chance to run in both series, and try it and challenge myself, I would like to do that."
However in Tuesday's talks the 27-year-old Patrick showed little enthusiasm for a NASCAR venture: "I'm curious about NASCAR. But curious doesn't mean I wanted to jump in with both feet. I still love Indy-car racing and where I'm at and the team that I'm with."
If a NASCAR deal comes about, Patrick indicated, she'd play with it. But she is certainly showing little driving enthusiasm about it.
"We've been working on this, and talking to people since the summer," she said about a NASCAR venture. We are serious about this. Whether or not things come together or not, we won't know. But there's no contract and no deal right now. But if I could do both, I'd like to do that."
Isn't time getting tight? Daytona's ARCA testing is coming up in three weeks, if she wants to run in the ARCA 200.
"I think we still have time," Patrick insists. "February is when they start. There's still time. "Even if things go until the last minute, there's still a little bit of time left."
That would seem to be a bit naive, however.
Two weeks ago NASCAR team owner Hendrick seemed to be downplaying the possibility of a Patrick move to NASCAR, questioning whether any deal could be done for 2010. And Monday Patrick herself seemed to back that up.
If NASCAR, what steps would she like to take? ARCA, Nationwide, Cup?
"In all of the talks over the summer, in meeting with people (like NASCAR team owners), there was a lot of emphasis on learning," she said. "So I'd be very prepared to start small and grow and really learn the cars."
However there is the sense that Patrick's heart really isn't in this NASCAR thing.
"It's come up in the past -- to run NASCAR," she says. "And my heart wasn't there. I didn't want to at all. I wasn't really curious. And, trust me, there were financial reasons why it would have been a much better idea (to go NASCAR). I've always thought that the most important thing for me in my career is that I go with my gut, go with what I want, and not worry about the rest. Now my curiosity is there...and I'd like to just try it. I'd like to see how I get on with the cars. I just think the racing looks fun. I enjoy Indy-car racing...but I mostly enjoy the oval racing. When you have wheel to wheel racing all day, it's challenging. Don't get me wrong -- it's very stressful. But it's a lot of fun at the same time. And they (NASCAR) have a lot of that. I think the racing looks fun." MikeMulhern.net
11/16/09 Rick Hendrick said Sunday he has no deal to bring IndyCar superstar Danica Patrick to NASCAR, and there's no certainty she'll even be driving stock cars next season. "I just think that they are not even close to making a decision on whether to even do it this year or next year," Hendrick said of Patrick and her representatives at IMG. "You never know until it's done. You never know until it's signed. And anybody can change their mind. When you get down to the nitty gritty of any deal, it's always complicated. There can always be someone who comes back and says `I can't do it because of this.' So until it's done, it's not done. And that's the honest truth." Patrick is reportedly in the final stages of a contract that would partner her on a limited Nationwide Series schedule with JR Motorsports, the team owned by both Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. But speaking before Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway, Hendrick called the reports "premature" and insisted nothing is imminent. "I think everything is an option, and it's just too early to really comment on it," he said. "I can't give you anything concrete, because there isn't anything concrete right now. Nothing is imminent until it's signed. Too many things can happen." Hendrick, who just returned from a weeklong vacation in Israel, said there have been no new developments in talks with Patrick and that IndyCar remains her first priority. Existing contracts she has in that series could also complicate a potential venture into NASCAR. Patrick has said very little about her 2010 plans, including an apparent contract extension to stay with Andretti Green Racing. Part of that holdup is a pending change of team ownership, which is expected to be transferred solely to Michael Andretti. More at Associated Press
11/06/09 Circle these dates on your Danica Patrick swimsuit calendar: Dec. 18-20 in Daytona Beach, Fla. That's the likely coming-out party for Patrick in a stock car, during ARCA RE/MAX testing at Daytona International Speedway. If and when Patrick agrees to a deal with a NASCAR team, she'll need to get up to speed on stock cars quickly. That means testing, testing and more testing. NASCAR has OK'd testing at some tracks that have been off-limits in 2009, but no track is better for Patrick to get superspeedway experience on than 2.5-mile, high-banked Daytona.
Patrick's potential schedule for 2010 includes at least a dozen Nationwide Series races, but will begin with the ARCA RE/MAX race at Daytona in February. If NASCAR approves her, she'll be able to drive in the Nationwide events at Daytona, California and Las Vegas. Following the conclusion of the IRL season on Oct. 2, her schedule will be ramped up.
Her stock car racing will have to be worked around her day job with Andretti Racing in the newly named IZOD IndyCar Series. She still has to prepare for the IndyCar open test at Homestead, Fla. (usually scheduled in March), and will devote the month of May to the Indianapolis 500.
"We know what her experience level is," NASCAR Director of Cost and Research Brett Bodine, who oversees the qualification process for potential drivers, said last month. "When I talk to (the team that signs her) officially, we'll find out where they want to race and what she would be approved for. "She'll be reviewed like everyone else — just like a driver who wants to race in one of the Camping World Series or Nationwide or truck series. She has to submit a resume to my office and we'll review as a committee."
It appears JR Motorsports has the inside track on Patrick's stock car services. "We've been talking to her — we've made that known for quite some time and other teams have talked to her as well. So we're working on details," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Wednesday. "We'll know more in the future."
A Patrick deal is unlikely to be announced this month, since Hendrick Motorsports, a partner of JR Motorsports, wouldn't want an announcement to overshadow Jimmie Johnson's fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title, which he can wrap up on Nov. 22 in the season finale at Homestead. My bet? December.
As far as who would lead the Danica Project, all signs point to Tony Eury Jr. He was instrumental in assisting Earnhardt Jr. to his two Busch (now Nationwide) Series titles, and he has been working in Hendrick's R&D department since he parted ways with the No. 88 Cup team. He has been working with his father, Tony Eury Sr., on occasional weekends as well as with Brad Keselowski's part-time HMS Cup effort. FOX Sports on MSN
11/04/09 According to sources close to the action, IndyCar Series sexpot Danica Patrick is reportedly in the closing stages of inking a two-year deal with JR Motorsports for a limited schedule this season in addition to her IndyCar drive. Yet another source states "talks are moving in a very positive direction and it would probably be a surprise if it didn't happen."
The rumor is that she would make her debut at SpeedWeeks in an ARCA car.
Both camps declined comment.
Earnhardt and Patrick have a sponsor in common, in current deals with GoDaddy.com. Though we wonder if they have plans to do a "sequel" to their advertisement featuring a showering Danica, that was rejected by the Super Bowl and could only be shown online on the GoDaddy website, with Dale Jr and Danica showering together. The Web site registration service is known for their racy marketing approach. Brad Keselowski, the current JR Motorsports driver, is leaving the team at season's end to drive for Penske Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
11/04/09 Don't look for Danica Patrick to make her first NASCAR Nationwide Series start in the #5 JR Motorsports car at Phoenix International Raceway in two weeks, according to NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick. When asked before Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega if Patrick, who has signed to stay in the IndyCar Series with team owner Michael Andretti, would make her first NASCAR start near her Scottsdale, Ariz., home, his answer was short and simple. "No," Hendrick said. "That's not going to happen."
According to sources within the NASCAR garage area, Patrick's asking price to compete in Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races is $300,000 per race. If she were to run a truck race and a Nationwide race on the same weekend, the price is $600,000. Even with the sheer amount of publicity that Patrick would bring to NASCAR, team owners don't appear interested in paying that price. - Sports Illustrated