Danica Patrick: 12 Reasons She'll Compete Well in NASCAR During 2012

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2012

Danica Patrick: 12 Reasons She'll Compete Well in NASCAR During 2012

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    Danica Patrick left the IndyCar Series, not just to casually dabble in NASCAR, but to become a serious contender with the heavy, fendered cars that she has quickly learned to appreciate and enjoy driving.

    Patrick likes everything about NASCAR owners, drivers, teams and, of course, fans.

    She finds it a much different environment than what she was used to as an open-wheel driver, but one she really wants to be part of.

    Many think much has been handed to her, thereby giving her advantages that she doesn't deserve. She does have strong financial support from her sponsor that makes her desirable as a driver.

    The fact is that, if she doesn't perform well and continue improving as she gets seat time in both the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, big bucks won't matter.

    Certainly, Patrick has been fortunate to align herself with strong teams in both of the top NASCAR series she will race in.

    This is a driver who is a quick study and is very confident in her ability. She is committed to doing well, and the consensus from those who will be racing with her is that she is going to be a contender for wins.

    She will run the full Nationwide series, but her 10-race Cup schedule is strictly to get her used to that style of racing and the difference with the cars.

    She will be racing at tracks that may test her the most during the 2012 season with her No. 10 GoDaddy.com Cup car.

    There will be those who doubt her ability. And, even though she has already proven herself in many ways with her accomplishments, her talent will be questioned.

    Patrick already has become very popular with NASCAR fans, and her full-time commitment to the sport is a very good thing.

    Patrick doesn't intend to fail on her mission to become a respected driver in NASCAR racing, and there are many reasons why she will be a serious competitor in 2012.

    Here are 12 reasons to take her seriously in 2012.

1. Respect

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    Danica Patrick may have only run two partial NASCAR Nationwide Series seasons, but she has developed friendships and respect from the drivers she will be racing against.

    Patrick doesn't hesitate to solicit advice from drivers, not only in the second tier of NASCAR, but she has received words of wisdom from some of the best in the Cup series and is gaining their respect, as well.

    The drivers she will be racing against trust her ability behind the wheel of a race car, and that goes a long ways on a race track.

2. Sponsorship

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    GoDaddy.com was a primary sponsor for her in the IndyCar Series, and they loyally support her move to NASCAR.

    They will continue to be her primary sponsor on both the No. 7 Nationwide Series car and her No. 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup car.

    Having a strong sponsor means big bucks and that attracts first-class rides. She is able to drive great cars that are well prepared, and that is huge factor that allows her to perform optimally. 

3. JR Motorsports

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    This will be Danica Patrick's third season with JR Motorsports, but this time, it is a full-time gig with her No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

    Though her boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., doesn't run many races in the second-tier series, he still provides input to his driver along with the guidance of her crew chief, Tony Eury Jr.

    There is good chemistry with Patrick and those at JR Motorsports. They run first-class cars powered by Hendrick Motorsports engines.

    Earnhardt not only respects his driver and believes in her ability, but he finds her to be fun to be around.

4. Confidence

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    Patrick has been racing since she was a child, made her way to the IndyCar Series where she held her own in a male-dominated series and broke ground with her accomplishments.

    Now, she is going to battle with the boys of NASCAR. Despite being petite, she is feisty and ready to give what she gets on the track.

    Patrick is confident about all that she does, and she knows that she is adapting well to driving in NASCAR. In addition, she really likes doing it.

    She wants to do well and be respected, so her high confidence level will carry her far as she develops her career in stock car racing.

5. Hendrick Motorsports

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    Patrick will be driving cars with chassis and engines from Hendrick Motorsports in both the Nationwide and Cup series.

    She could not ask for better equipment.

    The technical support that flows from HMS to JR Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing can only make her journey in NASCAR easier.

6. History with Tracks

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    Not all of Patrick's experiences have turned out well during her two part-time Nationwide Series seasons, but it provided experience.

    There are many tracks she has yet to run for the first time with NASCAR equipment, but she has been to several tracks multiple times, including Daytona.

    Those tracks where she has experience should make for better performance this year, though tracks she has not raced on could be a bit problematic.

    The fact that she knows the characteristics of some tracks from her IndyCar racing will also benefit her, even though the cars are very different.

7. Media

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    The focus from media was intense when Danica Patrick first made her appearance in NASCAR, and it was sometimes a lot to handle.

    Patrick is no stranger to media attention, especially having dealt with it at the Indianapolis 500 when she raced her open-wheel car.

    She is still a hot commodity for the media to focus on, and she draws perhaps even more attention than NASCAR's Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., at media events.

    Now, she finds herself very comfortable in the spotlight, and she realizes the attention is good for her and the sport.

    The media frenzy that surrounded her has quieted somewhat in the garage area as she starts to blend in as a driver rather than a celebrity.

    The comfort level she has found will benefit her as she goes forward with her NASCAR schedule in 2012.

8. Fans

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    Patrick has developed quite a fan base in NASCAR, and it will only motivate her to prove her ability and not let them down.

    And, she has some of her IndyCar fans crossing over to follow her in stock car racing.

    Though she is well aware of the naysayers who doubt her, she finds it healthy to have people who support her as well as those who don't.

    The doubters are not a distraction to this highly focused driver.

9. Quick Study

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    Patrick is a very quick learner who processes information rapidly and has learned to give good feedback on both her Nationwide and Cup cars.

    She went through a learning curve of terminology that was much different from the open-wheel series in 2010. Patrick also had to adapt to the southern drawl of her No. 7 car chief, Tony Eury Jr.

    Communication is no longer an issue, and she is comfortable with NASCAR lingo.

    Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart have been very impressed with how quickly she has progressed.

10. Style of Driving

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    Patrick is a very smooth driver.

    That, perhaps, comes from her experience in the IndyCar Series, where holding a clean and steady line is more important with the open-wheel cars.

    She is used to speed, with open-wheel cars having more speed than even the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars. That should play to her favor more with the Cup cars than the Nationwide cars, which are slower.

    Certainly, Patrick has been caught up in accidents, but most have not been of her making. For the most part, she brings her equipment back to the garage in good shape after a race.

    The GoDaddy.com driver has also overcome her hesitation with bump-drafting, which was a foreign concept in the open-wheel cars. Patrick is also a patient driver unless someone plays rough with her.

    Patrick has quickly learned when to be conservative and when to get aggressive.

11. Mentors

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    Patrick has sought and received advice from some of NASCAR's best drivers, including the owners of her Nationwide and Cup teams.

    Though she is running the Nationwide Series full-time—and that is the focus of her racing goals in 2012—she will be closely working with Stewart-Haas Racing.

    Technically, she is running SHR equipment out of Tommy Baldwin Racing for the 10 Cup races this year. Greg Zipadelli is listed as team strategist for the No.10 car, which basically means he is her crew chief.

    Tony Stewart and Zipadelli are the perfect people to guide Patrick into Cup level racing.

    "Zippy" worked with a feisty, young Stewart who was fresh from the open-wheel cars when he was Stewart's crew chief at JGR.

    The two went on to win two Cup championships. Now, they can relate to Patrick's learning curve with the No. 10 car after coming from IndyCar racing.

    The guidance from those at SHR will cross over to Patrick even in Nationwide racing because some things apply to both series, though the cars are different.

    Patrick will also be racing against Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. in the Nationwide race that will be run the day before the 54th "Great American Race" at Daytona.

12. Goals

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    Danica Patrick really wants to do well in the NASCAR Nationwide Series during 2012 because her goal is to run full-time with her No. 10 Sprint Cup car during the 2013 season.

    Some drivers who come into NASCAR's top level of racing adapt better to Cup cars than they do to the Nationwide car.

    Patrick has not had enough seat time in her No. 10 car to see if that could possibly be the case with her.

    Patrick is a realist, so far, about her chances to win the Nationwide championship. She knows that is a bit lofty, but she does expect top-five finishes and at least a win or two along the way.

    The fact that she wants to prove herself quickly with the No. 7 car in 2012 and get on with racing in the Cup series is one more reason she will do some serious Nationwide racing this year.