Danica had better watch her rear view mirror

Danica Patrick shouldn't let her newfound NASCAR aspirations take her eye off of her day job in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The popular IndyCar driver recently signed a deal to compete in select NASCAR Nationwide Series races with JR Motorsports in 2010. However, she could be challenged as the fastest woman in IndyCar if Swiss racer Simona de Silvestro joins the series next year.

Patrick, who first gained notoriety in 2005 by becoming the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500, has enjoyed a level of success and a lot of media attention in America's top open-wheel series. She became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race when she won the IndyCar event at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in 2008.

De Silvestro, a five-time winner in the competitive Atlantic Championship Series, is looking to move up to the IndyCar Series in 2010. De Silvestro, 21, has the potential to become even more successful than Patrick at the IndyCar level based on her results in the Atlantic developmental racing series. She would join Patrick and two others — Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno — as women who have competed in the IndyCar Series in recent years.

De Silvestro completed a successful first IndyCar test at Sebring International Raceway last week. She lapped the airport road course faster than Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's two drivers from the previous week, according to a story on speedtv.com. Her lap of 54 seconds, in an HVM Racing Dallara, was two-tenths and three-tenths of a second faster than N/H/L teammates Graham Rahal and Hideki Mutoh, respectively. IndyCar regular E.J. Viso was able to better de Silvestro's fast time with a lap of 53.91 seconds for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing soon after her test concluded.

Outright speed wasn't her only strong point, as de Silvestro was able to make significant setup changes to the car, which suggests a level of experience not normally expected from a driver making her IndyCar debut.

"She was very impressive," HVM team owner Keith Wiggins said in a statement. "From the first laps, she showed she was capable of driving the car fast and she progressed rapidly." Star Gazette

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