Danica to NASCAR full-time in 2012
It's official. Danica Patrick is leaving the IndyCar Series behind and will drive in NASCAR full-time starting in 2012.
"In breaking news that will shock the world," Patrick joked Thursday, before announcing her widely-reported plans.
The 29-year-old superstar will drive the full NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule next year with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s race team, JR Motorsports. She will also attempt a partial Sprint Cup Series schedule with Tony Stewart's organization, Stewart-Haas Racing.
“We’re very excited to have Danica Patrick and Go Daddy join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012 for a limited NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule with the intention of us running her full-time in Sprint Cup in 2013," Stewart said in a statement. "We’re proud of the fact she wants to come and be a part of Stewart-Haas Racing and what we’ve built with Ryan Newman and myself and all of our partners. Having Danica and Go Daddy as a combination at SHR is something we’re really looking forward to."
Although there is speculation that she will run the Daytona 500 as part of the Sprint Cup portion of the schedule, no official races were announced. She will likely race eight to 10 races in NASCAR's premier racing series.
“We are pleased Danica Patrick has chosen to race full time in NASCAR in 2012," NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in a statement. "She has demonstrated a strong desire to compete and NASCAR provides the best opportunity to race against the top drivers in the world with the largest and most loyal fan base in motorsports on a week-to-week basis. Danica has shown solid improvement in NASCAR and we believe her decision to run full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, with additional races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will be exciting for our fans and a great challenge for her.”
Patrick has competed in 20 Nationwide Series races in the last two seasons, earning one top-five and three top-10 finishes.
Despite the announcement, Patrick did not rule out a return to open-wheel racing for the 2012 Indianapolis 500.
Patrick had her highest finish at the Indy 500 when she took third in the 2009 race and became the first woman to win an IndyCar race when she took the checkers at Japan in 2008.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.