Danica Patrick Returns To NASCAR for Better or Worse

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJune 20, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 27:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, gets out her car in the garage after an incident on track during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Just as the petite princess of auto racing begins to gain traction in her open-wheel car, she heads to the NASCAR Nationwide series.

Danica Patrick finished sixth at the Indy 500, second in Texas and 10th at Iowa Speedway.

Currently, she is 11th in the Izod IndyCar points standings.

After mediocre runs on street courses with her Andretti Autosports machine during the first part of the season, she began to show she could run up front until the race at the Iowa Corn Indy 250.

Danica doesn't hesitate to express her dislike of road and street courses and much prefers driving the oval tracks.

Next weekend she heads to Loudon, New Hampshire to join the drivers in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Once again, the media will focus on all things Danica, as the other 42 drivers slip into the shadows.

As unfair as it seems to veteran drivers, it will be some time before the novelty of Danica wears off, if it ever does.

Patrick will be running Nationwide races in Chicago, Michigan and Dover following her trip to New Hampshire

She will then run the last six NASCAR Nationwide races of the season beginning at Auto Club Speedway in California.

It remains to be seen how driving open-wheel cars and stock cars in alternate weeks will affect her ability in each of the series.

Michael Andretti, owner of Patrick's No. 7 GoDaddy.com Indy car said of her double duty, "I'm a little concerned.  I think it's tough for her to do that."

Patrick compared the two types of cars at Auto Club Speedway saying, "Fontana, that place was so easy in an Indy car.  You drive around the white line and keep your foot down."

Patrick continued, "In a stock car, it seemed really short because you're lifting.  I was uncomfortable in the car."

Welcome back to NASCAR, Danica.  There will be no following the white line as the gloves come off with stock car racing.

IndyCar drivers are not supposed to block and need to hold their line.

NASCAR's "have at it" policy pretty much encourages drivers to take any line that gets them toward the front with blocking and bumping being the means to do it.

Patrick has been involved in some test sessions with the Nationwide car, but race conditions may once again give her that claustrophobic sensation when running in a tight pack of cars.

She will be honing her skills that enable her to drive high, then drop low, and vice versa, while avoiding contact with those other cars that run so darn close.

Hopefully Patrick will find the stock car experience to be fun, as she did earlier in the year.

It is no secret that within perhaps a mere two years she may be thrust into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Patrick knows how important it is to do well in the NASCAR Nationwide series for JR Motorsports.  Her future depends on her ability to learn quickly and perform well.

Patrick's IndyCar season will most likely take a turn for the worse as the upcoming races revert back to street courses and road course circuits.

As summer turns to fall, we shall see which form of motorsports Patrick is best suited for.

Expectations are like the tide as far as race fans are concerned.

Many have high expectations for her to do well in one or both of the series she will be racing in.

Others feel she is mediocre as a race car driver and will never succeed in either series if you are looking for wins or championships.

It will be a hot and busy summer for the media darling.

We wait to see what Danica Patrick can prove to us as she returns to NASCAR for better or worse next week in the New England 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.