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Danica-to-NASCAR, Yes! Now NASCAR to Danica: Show us what you've got...out on the race track

  Danica Patrick finally confirms her NASCAR plans. But will the pinup girl's overt sexuality in marketing help her or hurt her in NASCAR? Will anybody in this branch of the sport take her seriously? (Photo: Indy Racing League)

   By Mike Mulhern
  Well, NASCAR wanted her...and now NASCAR's got her.
   So what next?
   After the long game of charades that Danica Patrick has played this year, the high-profile Indy-car racer finally confirmed Tuesday, from her Scottsdale, Az., home that she will indeed be trying her hand at stock car racing...beginning with three days of ARCA testing at Daytona Dec. 18 in cars owned jointly by Rick Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., through their JR Motorsports division.
   The goal is to get her in a NASCAR Nationwide car sometime in 2010, but when and for how many races she is still leaving up in the air.
   "It's been a long time coming, but the stars finally aligned," Patrick said, ending long-running speculation about any NASCAR plans the 27-year-old sex-pot racer might have.
   Now she's got to prove this venture is more than just some eye-candy for NASCAR:
   Like THIS!
  There are more than just a few skeptics.
  Just three weeks ago Hendrick himself expressed doubts any deal with Patrick could come off.  Of course a few weeks before that Dale Jr. himself all but confirmed a deal with Patrick. Now Patrick herself has confirmed a two-year deal with Hendrick and Earnhardt, with internet sponsor Go Daddy, which will be on Mark Martin's Cup car in 2010....leading to speculation about what Patrick might do when Martin, if he does, does retire.
   Hendrick and Earnhardt have pointed to Earnhardt's sister Kelley as the chief negotiator in all this. Kelley Earnhardt says she expects Patrick to be a "top-15" racer in stock cars out on the track.
   At one point in August it appeared that if Patrick were to do a NASCAR deal it would be with Tony Stewart, who runs a two-car satellite Cup operation with Hendrick engines and Hendrick engineering. However something apparently happened to that option.
    And of course there is the Dale Earnhardt Jr. angle in all this – yes, he was just named NASCAR's most popular driver yet again, but he just finished the worst season of his  Cup career, and he's won only one tour event – and that on gas mileage – over the last three-plus years.
   How much of a distraction adding Danica Patrick to the Earnhardt equation may be is up for good debate.
   However, the Chevrolet brand will be a prominent part of the deal, and that puts General Motors' execs in the game too. And with GM's current managerial upheaval in Detroit – the company doesn't even really have a boss at the moment – it's unclear how rapidly the Patrick contracts moved through Detroit offices.

  Does Danica Patrick really understand what NASCAR racing is all about? (Photo: Danica Patrick Go Daddy)

Now that there is a deal – of some sort – can Danica Patrick deliver?
   The number of cross-over Indy-to-NASCAR drivers who have been successful is quite small – like Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, and John Andretti.
   Last week she announced a new two-year Indy Racing League deal with car owner Michael Andretti, and she says she'll be focusing on that tour's 16-race season, which opens in March and ends in early October. She says she'll sandwich her stock car racing around that. She finished third in this May's Indianapolis 500, and she finished fifth in the IRL standings.
   Patrick, who says she ran in NASCAR Busch cars at Greenville-Pickens seven or eight years ago briefly, is an unknown on NASCAR's Sprint Cup tracks.
   So her first big race will apparently be Daytona's ARCA 200 Saturday Feb. 6th. That's the day before the NFL Super Bowl – in which she is expected to have a few spicy commercials, undoubtedly partly tied to her new NASCAR venture.
   In a curious twist Tony Eury Jr., Dale Jr.'s long-time crew chief, will be heading Patrick's NASCAR/ARCA program.
   However whatever she might be able to do on the track, what she's done – or more correctly not done – off the track may put her a step or two behind.
   While NASCAR drivers have said that they'll welcome her and that if she's successful that would be good for the sport, men like Juan Pablo Montoya -- the ex-Formula 1 driver and Indy 500 winner who has spent some three years learning the ropes in NASCAR, despite clearly much more talented and experience – have warned that Patrick doesn't really know what she's getting into.
   Montoya, for his part, went through a humbling training session on small tracks around the country in a full-blown testing project before jumping into a Cup car. And Montoya says Patrick would be ill-advised not to just concentrate solely on NASCAR.
   On top of that, Patrick's fan appeal has become questionable over the past several months, at least among race fans.
   She may find herself more an object of controversy that she may expect.
   However NASCAR promoters are already jumping the start -- Gillian Zucker, at Los Angeles' Auto Club Speedway, is already teasing: "Will she race at Auto Club Speedway in February? Should she decide to hit the asphalt at Southern California’s premier motorsports facility for the Stater Bros. 300, fans can witness history for as low as $30 as general admission tickets for the Saturday Nationwide event. Reserved seats for Saturday are $50."
   Patrick's game plan at the moment appears to be to run in the ARCA 200, to let NASCAR drivers and officials see her on that track in traffic, and then get okayed for the following weekend's Nationwide 300. Patrick is expected to run around 12 ARCA/Nationwide races in 2010.
  But will that be enough to pick up the tricks of this trade?
   In the Indy-car world, which has over the past 15 years been eclipsed by NASCAR, in every measureable way, Patrick has just one win, on gas mileage, two years ago in Japan. And that tour has only two powerhouse teams, Roger Penske's and Chip Ganassi's. Just getting the Andretti IRL operation winning again may be a chore.
   Still, in the IRL she has been a showcase piece.
   In NASCAR, well, at best she's a 'project,' probably long-term. Or maybe she is simply a marketing gimmick for NASCAR, which could certainly use a shot in the arm among the general (non-racing) public to reverse a slump in crowds and TV ratings.
   However, so far Patrick has either shown remarkable naiveté about NASCAR and its fans and its racing, or a prima donna disdain.
   And what was a strong burst of enthusiasm for Patrick-in-NASCAR back in the early summer, when the project first became well known, has degenerated into a lot of negativity, in large part because of her long-running silence. (It's unclear if she even bothered attending any NASCAR races this season.)
   First, she had steadfastly refused to talk about any NASCAR plans or projects all year, despite wide-spread reports of various options her business agents were pursuing.
   Then she skipped NASCAR's Phoenix 500 last month, not even bothering to make a track appearance, even though the facility is just a few miles from her Scottsdale, Az., home.
   She also skipped last weekend's NASCAR awards banquet, and when she was on ABC's Good Morning America last week she refused to answered questions about NASCAR.
   And Tuesday's press conference was held not in North Carolina or Daytona, NASCAR's two homes, but more than 2,000 miles away in Phoenix' Chase Field.
   So the question now is 'Danica Patrick, prima donna?' or 'Danica Patrick, future NASCAR star?'
   And it's still quite unclear if she really has the fire in the belly for what lies ahead.



The girls got Spunk. I'l give

The girls got Spunk. I'l give her that. We shall see.

Fox News Channel is saying

Fox News Channel is saying that Nascar is hoping that Danica can turn around lackluster ratings and attendance.
If Nascar, Brian France, are really serious about turning around 'lackluster falling ratings and attendance' they need to get Jr. out of HMS and back into a competitive car. 2 Busch Championships and 18 Cup wins aren't just flukes. He also needs a proven cc he can trust and have confidence in when going into a corner at 200mph. Marybeth
Fox News Channel is saying that Nascar is hoping that Danica can turn around lackluster ratings and attendance.
If Nascar, Brian France, are really serious about turning around 'lackluster falling ratings and attendance' they need to get Jr. out of HMS and back into a competitive car. 2 Busch Championships and 18 Cup wins aren't just flukes. He also needs a proven cc he can trust and have confidence in when going into a corner at 200mph. Marybeth

Although I'm not impressed

Although I'm not impressed with Danica, based on her performance in the Indy ranks and what seems to me a-pay-me-cause-I'm-just-not-A-woman-but-Danica ego. I wouldn't be surprised if she goes to ARCA and do well, especially if the equipment and personnel she's working with is top notch. There's been many examples of that with Sprint Cup Teams Driver Development. All the major Cup teams have them. That's a gimme.

If Dale, Jr. 2010 season is as bad as 2009, you'll know why. Trying to be more of a car owner vs concentrating on driving with his Cup team efforts. Wouldn't be interesting if Harvick or Kahne, moves to Hendrick or Stewart-Haas, Dale, Jr. to RCR?

No, she can't deliver. That

No, she can't deliver. That was shown in her IRL efforts, where she had some of the best racecars in the series in Rahal Racing and Andretti-Green, and at a time when the series' competitive depth was in decline, and did nothing with them. She won poles and managed a lot of top tens because of the series' decline in competitive depth, and her lone win came in a fuel-mileage race against a truncated field (it was Motegi when they ran a split-squad race at Long Beach that same weekend). Chicagoland last season typifes Patrick's poor racing ability - in a massive fight for the win she simply stayed out back and never raced anyone, and finished 12th.

Her overt sexuality - shown here - is the primary reason she's advanced in racing; it had nothing to do with actually working at it.

There was a lot of media talk about how she could bring fans to the races and/or bring more sponsors to the series, yet there was never any evidence of improved popularity or improved sponsorship packages in IRL. Danica Patrick was about Danica Patrick, and she brought nothing to racing.

There are ways for a driver

There are ways for a driver to win: on the track and in the board room. Danica will disappiont on the track, but she will attract and please sponsors. That is the base for Hendrick's winning: his relationship his sponsors. That's what brings in the cash that buys the equipment and pays the salaries and drives the research. Hendrick realized before anyone else did that marketing is the key to on-track performance. He deserves a lot of credit for that. This is another step in that direction. Patrick will attract and hold sponsors. The money she (and Li'l E.) brings in will make Gordon, Johnson and Martin faster.

I am about to OD on all the

I am about to OD on all the Danica hype.

Who cares?

Who cares?

Mike, You heading down to


You heading down to Daytona for her ARCA test on Friday? You would think the Pope was behind the wheel with all the hype. I'll get interested when she goes to a track where she has to be a driver instead of a steering dummy. Maybe they'll put an illegal engine in the car to build up the hype machine even more.

Be Careful What You Wish For,

Be Careful What You Wish For, You May Get It.

That's what is going to happen with Danica. We're seeing a lot of hype and talk about her performance in the IRL, which really hasn't been that great, but there's not much being said about her as a person. NASCAR drivers have no problems with visiting sick kids in hospitals. Danica has a problem with that.Danica's mouth has turned off fans along the IRL pit roads and paddocks resulting in other IRL drivers having to apologize for her mouth and remarks. Danica avoids the fans and the media as much as possible by hiding out in her motor home at the IRL tracks. She's going to find it hard to escape the NASCAR media when they turn up at her motor home with cameras rolling and her without her make-up on and the fans in the garage area chomping at the bit to get her autograph. If she does the same thing to the NASCAR fans and media that she's done to the IRL fans and media,this will become one massive PR nightmare that none of the apologists or brian France will be able to undo.

I completely agree with

I completely agree with Decklid.She will disappoint on the track, but she will attract and please sponsors.It wouldn't be a surprise if she goes to ARCA and do well, especially if the equipment and sponsor she's working with is top notch.
Regards, Super Bowl Ticket

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