SPEED quotes on Danica’s NASCAR foray

The wait is over. IndyCar Series star Danica Patrick today announced her 2010 plans to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and ARCA RE/MAX Series on a limited basis while simultaneously competing for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. Patrick is scheduled to make her stock car debut Feb. 6 in the ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be broadcast on SPEED. Below are reactions from SPEED on-air personalities regarding Patrick’s long-awaited decision:

“How do you define success? Is it how much money Danica will make or how many races she’ll win? If it’s how much she’ll make, it will be a huge success. If it’s how many races she’ll win, it won’t be successful at all. I don’t expect her to win more stock car races than she’s won IndyCar races, which is one. But in terms of her financial security and opportunity to try a new racing challenge, it’s a great thing to do. Her ability to continue to do the IndyCar thing while testing the stock car waters is perfect. If I were her, I would have done the exact same thing but I would have done it with some fairly realistic expectations about the outcome.

“It will be a huge interest builder, should attract some female fans and should attract some younger fans. To me, it appears to be a win-win for everybody, including IndyCar, who gets to hang onto her for another three years."

— Dave Despain, host of “Wind Tunnel" with Dave Despain on SPEED

“Thank God it’s over – I’m sick of hearing about it (laughing). Nobody’s been a bigger support of Danica than I but I think she needs to become a consistent winner in IndyCar before she needs to worry about being a NASCAR driver. But I understand her curiosity – the money and all that. However, I agree with Juan Pablo Montoya – you can’t go back and forth between the two series or you’re never going to have success. You’ve got to do one or the other.

“I don’t know that NASCAR fans will embrace her. I think some of the men will but I don’t know if she will have a lot of female fans because their drivers are Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The reaction might be surprising but I don’t think there will be a large groundswell of support.

“This shows me that maybe NASCAR is a little more desperate than I think they are if they think she’s going to be the ‘save-all’ and ‘cure-all.’ Danica will go through a huge learning process. She has a lot of spunk and talent and there’s no doubt about her abilities. She is as serious a racer as any guy. But this is something you can’t do part-time. It’s a full-time job.

“NASCAR is such a completely different animal – I’m just not sure you can jump back and forth and do one for two months, take four or six months off, then come back and do it again and have any kind of rhythm or consistency, but we’ll see.

“I guess it’s a natural progression. If you’re an American driver and aspire to be in the top series, it’s NASCAR, although it pains me to say that."

— Robin Miller, SPEED analyst

“I think Danica Patrick’s entry into NASCAR and ARCA will positively impact our sport. This industry has changed and there is no reason Danica will not thrive in the stock car realm.

“Women have been breaking barriers in the garage since the early ‘80s when my mother had to be escorted through the NASCAR garage by an official because women were not allowed in the garage area. Now there are many talented and well-respected women working in NASCAR and proving their knowledge of the sport, oftentimes carrying a deeper pedigree and knowledge of the sport’s history than some of their male counterparts. I appreciate the hard-working women here who are giving the sport the recognition it deserves. If Danica helps that cause, I believe she will fit right in with our NASCAR family."

— Wendy Venturini, SPEED reporter

“I wish Danica luck because she’s going to need it. Dario Franchitti wasn’t able to make the transition running a full-time schedule for Chip Ganassi. Juan Pablo Montoya has been very successful, but it took him two full years to figure it out. I respect her willingness to try, but what she’s doing isn’t easy."

— Steve Byrnes, SPEED host

“Danica has been such a phenomenon at every level that I suppose this is the natural extension of her journey through the ranks of American motor sports. But after all that highfalutin talk, what it comes down to is she has to show she can do it. From what we’ve seen from the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Scott Speed, A.J. Allmendinger and all the other very good drivers who have come from open wheel, where the cars are light with a lot of aero-downforce and a lot of tire grip, going to the big, ponderous, equally powerful but much more unstable stock cars is a very difficult thing to do. I’m sure she’s fully cognizant of that, which is why she’s putting her toe into the water, so to speak, using this limited schedule. It’s going to be a tough transition and I hope she does it right. She certainly knows, as we all do, that it’s going to be a white-hot spotlight on her and it’s going to be a tricky process.

“NASCAR has been an all-male bastion for a long time. There have been a few women who have ventured into the sport here and there. But what Danica is doing is very well organized, very well-thought-out and hopefully she’ll be able to have an impact commensurate with her talent and won’t be sidetracked by all the extraneous issues of being a historical figure. There is a lot of heavy-lifting in just doing the job because being a stock car driver is difficult enough."

— Bob Varsha, SPEED analyst

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