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Danica Patrick's NASCAR Agenda Is a Win for the Sport

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2011

JOLIET, IL - JUNE 03:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Tissot/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, speaks with the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 3, 2011 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
JOLIET, IL - JUNE 03: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Tissot/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, speaks with the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 3, 2011 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Speculation is a sport within the sport of NASCAR, but even when the silly season rumblings are silenced, often the controversy continues to ensue.

Such is the case with Danica Patrick and the impending confirmation of her move to NASCAR full-time in the Nationwide Series and a partial schedule in the Cup Series for 2012, followed by a full-time move to that series the following year.

Patrick has been a hot topic in NASCAR circles since she signed on to drive a part-time schedule for JR Motorsports in the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Nationwide car.

Her first year was difficult, and everything was new to her compared to the open-wheel Indy cars she is used to driving.

The 2011 season has shown considerable improvement for Patrick with a fourth-place finish earlier this year at the Sam's Town 300 in Las Vegas. That was the highest finish for a female in NASCAR history.

Now the plans for Patrick continue to have her in JR Motorsports equipment with the continued guidance of her crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others who see her potential.

She will be working with Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing when she makes her foray into the Cup series. Equipment for JR Motorsports and SHR is backed by Hendrick Motorsports.

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 01:  (L-R) Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, Elliott Sadler, driver of the #2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, Tony Stewart, driver of the #9 Tapout Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, race and bump draft during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Jalapeno 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 1, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 01: (L-R) Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, Elliott Sadler, driver of the #2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, Tony Stewart, driver of the #9 Tapout Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, race and bump draft during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Jalapeno 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 1, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The jump from the less powerful Nationwide cars to the Cup cars is no easy feat because they are distinctly different race cars.

Some who have attempted a career move from open-wheel cars to stock cars have found disappointment, as Dario Franchitti can attest to.

Patrick has already shown she can adapt to the bulky machines of NASCAR and has been a quick learner not only out of desire to be taken seriously, but necessity due to limited seat time in the Nationwide Series.

It is likely the drafting with the two-car tandem of Patrick and Tony Stewart at the July Nationwide race on the high banks of Daytona was a preview of what might come during the 2012 Daytona 500.

Daytona International Speedway could not have a better game plan than to see Patrick make her Cup debut at the NASCAR Super Bowl and season kickoff.

It won't matter how well she does; ticket sales will be up, and viewership will increase because of her presence, the media hype, support from her fans and the curious who wonder how she will do.

Those who doubt Patrick's ability see her as a scantily clad model in television commercials and print ads. She has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and been featured in the swimsuit edition.

Her often seen GoDaddy.com commercials have garnered nearly as much or more attention than her on-track accomplishments.

Make no mistake about Patrick, 29, who was winning karting titles from the time she was 10 until she left school to race in England at the age of 16, where she remained three years.

Her return to the United States found her driving open-wheel cars that evolved to her becoming the 2005 rookie of the year in the IndyCar series.

Patrick's confirmation of her NASCAR agenda will rally the naysayers who are sure she will never be a contender for wins in the Nationwide or Sprint Cup series. At some point she just may seriously disappoint those people.

Patrick will continue to inspire young women coming up through lower series. Those with real talent behind the wheel of a race car will see they too may one day race in NASCAR's top series.

Sure, Patrick is well funded, unlike many female drivers who struggle to make their way in a tough and expensive sport, but it wasn't always that way for her.

The driver of the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet will likely win a race in the Nationwide Series, but she will no doubt have some rough runs as she gets her footing with the Cup cars.

Patrick has proven she is not one to back down in the Nationwide Series, but she will need to earn the respect of the drivers in the elite series of NASCAR, and that takes seat time.

Whether you are a fan of Patrick or not, she is good for NASCAR, and her new racing agenda is a winner for the sport. One day she will be a winner too, and Patrick will begin the task of silencing critics.

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