Since Danica Patrick's last IndyCar season on contract with Andretti Green Racing began, racing fans and analysts alike have been prophesying the beginning of the media darling's NASCAR career.
When Patrick visited the Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters on Monday, July 13, the fanfare heated up once again, eliciting the question of whether the visit was a legitimate business talk on Danica's stock car future, or whether it was merely a publicity stunt to force a bigger contract from Andretti Racing.
If you aren't familiar with motorsports, Tony Stewart, one of the two behind Stewart-Haas, is a former IndyCar driver that has seen much success after his switch to NASCAR. He has won two championships, and will likely be a contender for another this upcoming season. With his tutelage, Patrick would be learning from the perfect mentor.
Stewart also recently said that he's open to adding a third car to the team if the right driver or sponsor became available. “If the right situation came along, we would entertain it,” Stewart told Terry Blount of espn.com. To make things even more confusing/interesting, Stewart began to downplay the third-car scenario after Patrick's visit.
“As far as a third team goes, I think right now the biggest thing is you've got to make sure you can fund it first. You can build a team, but if you don't have the money to run it, it's not going to work. So, making sure that you've got proper funding is obviously the biggest thing,” Stewart was quoted as saying in a Yahoo! Sports article by Jay Busbee.
There's no doubt that Danica Patrick would bring sponsors galore to whatever NASCAR team she hypothetically decides to choose from. Companies would be lined up to have their name next to hers. That's not really the concern for anyone involved in bringing Patrick to NASCAR, though. The concern is in her racing ability, and the fact that she seems to be very much at home on the IndyCar circuit.
The IRL season is only 17 races long. A cup series is more than double that at 35-36 races. For Danica to jump into the schedule this coming year, that is a lot of racing in a heavy, unfamiliar car.
IRL IndyCars are, of course, a lot different than NASCAR stocks. It has taken Sam Hornish, an IRL driver who made the switch to NASCAR in the prime of his career, more than a year and a half to run smoothly in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. She also finished third in this year's Indy 500, and could very well take the cake next year if she stays.
When asked about the possible switch to NASCAR, Patrick made it clear that she believes in her ability to succeed. “Any time I've been tested and put in a car, in something I've never driven before. . . . I've always done really well. It's going to take some getting used to. But I can't make everyone think I'm a good driver. I used to be more intimidated by the length of the season, but I spend so very little time at home and I am always on the road. I'm much less intimidated by that”, she told the LA Times.
She has also confirmed with the LA Times that she will not drive with F1 next season, so that can be ruled out. She has stated that she enjoys being in America with her family and wouldn't want to tour around Europe.
The most likely NASCAR scenario, despite the Stewart-Patrick meeting, is for her to sign with Ganassi Racing. Chip Ganassi, the team's owner, has cars in both IndyCar and NASCAR. The team is successful, and can bring Danica a lot of money and sponsorships, which she hasn't been shy about desiring. To me, the Stewart-Haas prospect is a lot more exciting, but for Patrick's sake, the safe switch to NASCAR is the right one.
Without a carefully calculated to switch to stock cars, Danica could make a grave career decision.
All things aside though, wow, is Danica Patrick gorgeous. Ahem. Back to business. You can view my weekly sports commentary every Friday on ultimatesportsrankings.com.