Danica Patrick: 10 Bold Predictions for Her If She Goes to NASCAR Full-Time
She's the face of IndyCar racing in the United States today, the most well-known driver to represent the stars and stripes.
She's also virtually unavoidable as one of the faces of GoDaddy.com, with her commercials appearing on almost every channel at any point during the day.
However, if GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons' comments in an interview with ESPN's Terry Blount are to be believed, Danica Patrick will finally move from a part-time to a full-time Nationwide Series schedule in 2010—still leaving the door open for her to run the Indianapolis 500.
Here are 10 bold predictions regarding a full-time jump to NASCAR for Danica Patrick, if it indeed does happen.
Her Popularity Drops as She Becomes Just Another Face in NASCAR
While a major part of Danica's popularity comes from the fact that she is an attractive woman in a predominantly male sport that has dropped precipitously in popularity, she won't be the only recognizable face in NASCAR.
Ask any casual sports fan to name five IndyCar drivers, and you'd probably get one response: Danica. (Well, maybe JR Hildebrand too after his last-lap blunder this past weekend.)
Ask any casual sports fan to name five NASCAR drivers, and you'd at least get four ahead of Danica (Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch).
She'll still be well known, and ESPN will surely spend ample time on her each week; on the other hand, she won't be the face of a sport anymore.
Danica Will Start Fresh in NASCAR Once Again
It's been said and written by former drivers, television personalities and even fellow Bleacher Report columnists/writers who are much more intelligent than I am: It is too difficult for a driver to run two different disciplines at the same time.
Granted, Tony Stewart ran the Nationwide Series while winning an IndyCar title before heading to Cup, but the IndyCar schedule was paltry at best at the time.
We will have a true barometer of Danica's talents in NASCAR if she indeed runs a full Nationwide schedule next season.
GoDaddy.com Will Have a Major Influence on Danica's Move to NASCAR
Going back to my opening slide, the ESPN interview with Bob Parsons is seemingly the first confirmation from anyone remotely related to Danica Patrick's career regarding a move to NASCAR.
To me, at least, that is a pretty telling sign. GoDaddy.com already has lucrative roots in NASCAR, with its sponsorship of Hendrick Motorsports leading to Patrick driving for sister operation JR Motorsports. It remains to be seen if GoDaddy.com will stay with the No. 5 Chevy on the Sprint Cup side for Hendrick after Mark Martin departs, meaning they could become a package deal with Patrick.
Obviously, a jump by Danica to NASCAR means that GoDaddy would get more recognition on a short-term basis, as the media anticipates her first full season in Nationwide.
However, if Danica struggles mightily, will GoDaddy stay with her? That's a question that needs to be answered in the months ahead.
Danica Won't Struggle If She Attempts the Indy 500
According to the ESPN interview with Parsons, any contract Danica signs for a full-time Nationwide slate will allow her to run the Indianapolis 500.
"One-offs" have a knack to do just as well as the IndyCar regulars at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Dan Wheldon won his second Indy 500 in a one-race ride for Bryan Herta Autosport, while Bertrand Baguette led late in a one-off for Rahal Letterman Racing before pitting and finishing in seventh place.
Danica Will Have Her Fair Share of DNFs
Much like most drivers starting to get their legs under them in the Nationwide Series, sights like the attached video will occur often throughout the 2011 season.
I know this isn't bold, but it will happen.
Danica Will Attempt a Sprint Cup Race in 2012
Obviously, the ultimate plan of running a full Nationwide schedule is to parlay that experience into getting a Sprint Cup ride with the team Danica eventually signs with.
Thus, it's entirely possible that Patrick will attempt to qualify for a Sprint Cup race next season, likely in the second half of the year.
ESPN/ABC/ESPN2 Will Get Record Ratings Early in the Nationwide Series Season
Regardless of what the public may think of her, Danica Patrick is still a draw for many casual fans.
While the Indianapolis 500 may finally get its allure back even if Danica decides not to run the event after all, she's a big enough source of curiosity to kill many cats sick of the domination of the series by Cup drivers.
Danica May Post a Legitimate Top-Five Finish by the End of April
If the 2012 Nationwide Series schedule follows suit with this season's schedule, there's some opportunity for Patrick to earn a top-five finish that isn't aided by fuel mileage.
Danica could easily stay out of trouble at Daytona and Talladega en route to a great finish, even if the "two-car tandem" drafting doesn't lend itself to the big "Big Ones" that we're used to.
Additionally, Patrick has the Easter weekend event at Nashville Superspeedway in which most Cup drivers don't participate.
Danica Will Finish in the Top 10 or 15 in Nationwide Points
Laugh at this statement now, but this certainly seems possible.
Roush Fenway Racing products Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seem prepared to jump to the Sprint Cup level in 2012, whether it be with RFR or Wood Brothers Racing.
With a Nationwide title, Elliott Sadler could find himself back in the Sprint Cup ranks.
If Turner Motorsports decides to make the jump into the Sprint Cup Series, it's possible that Justin Allgaier, Reed Sorenson or Jason Leffler could drive for the operation formerly known as Braun Racing.
(Those are all bold predictions, in case you didn't know.)
With the likelihood of a Cup operation behind her, Danica will have top-notch equipment to excel with.
Danica Will Return to IndyCar Full-Time in 2013
Even though Danica will have a measurable level of success in the Nationwide Series, I think she'll want to return to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2013.
NASCAR is a long-term commitment for one to truly succeed, and Patrick will be 30 by the end of the 2012 season. She's already with an established team in Andretti Autosport in IndyCar, and appealing rides don't come along often in the open-wheel ranks.
Meanwhile, if she struggles in NASCAR, she does have sponsorship dollars (for now) that can carry her to another well-known team; on the other hand, she'd make bigger waves winning an Indy 500 than she would winning any Nationwide event.
Thoughts? Comment below.