The Frontstretch: Enter The Era of DaniCAR: Patrick To Join JR Motorsports in 2010 by Vito Pugliese -- Thursday November 5, 2009

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Enter The Era of DaniCAR: Patrick To Join JR Motorsports in 2010

Vito Pugliese · Thursday November 5, 2009


Following months – well, years really – of speculation, it appears that Danica Patrick is at long last coming south to compete in NASCAR. “Danicamania” was the prologue to what will no doubt be deemed DaniCAR, as she is currently finalizing a two-year contract that will see her competing in the Nationwide Series in 2010 for JR Motorsports, with significant backing from Hendrick Motorsports. The formal announcement is likely to be made after the 2009 season is complete, with the contract itself reportedly wrapped up within the next week to 10 days.

After meeting with Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick two weeks ago, Patrick was assured she has his full commitment to supporting her endeavors through JR Motorsports. One issue at hand, however, is the car number she will be running; Patrick reportedly wants to keep her IndyCar No. 7, rather than run the No. 5 that was the original Hendrick Motorsports entry – and a number used by his late son, Ricky.

But the assurances of Hendrick have no doubt helped to sway Patrick to join with JR Motorsports … not that there was ever much doubt to begin with. Sure, Patrick and Earnhardt have raced together in the past – albeit in the Jay-Z video for Show Me What You Got – and after Brad Keselowski announced he was departing JR Motorsports to sign with Penske Championship Racing in 2010, that opened up some room within the organization. Though Kelly Bires has been named as the full-time driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet next season, it was only a few weeks ago that Kelly Earnhardt Elledge, president of JR Motorsports, tipped her hand a bit when questioned about the prospect of fielding a second JR Motorsports entry for Patrick next year.

“There is a natural fit at JRM, with Dale Jr. and Danica both serving as spokespersons for,” Elledge said. “As a female managing one of the top Nationwide Series teams in the sport, I would be excited to have Danica within the JR Motorsports fold if she decides to enter the world of NASCAR.”

Patrick’s move will be a much-heralded and watershed moment for the sport, as she will be the first female to compete in the type of equipment capable of getting someone to Victory Lane. There have been women before her who certainly helped pave the way — Janet Guthrie, Patty Moise, and Shawna Robinson, to name a few — but Patrick also earned this opportunity, peaking with her ascent to the IndyCar Series after years of rising up through the ranks. Yet many critics, particularly those whose main focus is covering stick-and-ball sports, have been dismissive of her success, likening her to former tennis star Anna Kournikova. Kournikova never won a major tennis tournament, instead garnering much of her fame and fortune by simply being hot and posing in scantily clad outfits.

It also earned her the unfortunate nickname “Porn-ikova.” But I digress …

But while Patrick is no stranger to a swimsuit issue or calendars adorning many a toolbox in muffler shops across America, the difference between her and Kournikova is that the girl can actually drive. She managed to finish fourth in her first Indianapolis 500 in 2005, won her first IndyCar race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan in 2008, and managed a best ever season points finish in 2009 of fifth – ahead of teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti.

Patrick’s move to NASCAR, however, does not come cheaply, as the price tag of her presence is a steep one to say the least. Obscene figures have been flying around for months, with numbers initially as high as $8 million for eight races, though most recently that number has been reduced to $300,000 per Nationwide Race – doubling to $600,000 should she also compete in a Camping World Truck Series race in the same weekend.

(Hey, times are tough. We all have to make sacrifices and cinch up the belt a couple of notches!)

She’s just about here! One of open wheel’s top drivers is beginning her NASCAR transition in 2010 — like it or not.

Of course, perhaps the most startling thing is how much pomp and circumstance there is for a driver who hasn’t even made it to the major leagues yet. To clarify, Patrick is coming to NASCAR, but she is not going to be competing in the Sprint Cup Series – rather, she is dipping her painted toes in the stock car waters a little bit at a time, following the old “A-B-C” path into fendered competition that drivers used to take, one that once stood for ARCA-Busch-Cup.

(I guess you could call this one ACNEARCA, Camping World, NationwidE, but that doesn’t sound very appealing.)

Plus, she has nice skin.

The timing of this announcement could be considered suspect, for it is none too soon for NASCAR. Following the abomination of organized motorsports competition that was the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega this past weekend, it would be in the sanctioning body’s best interest to move that off the front page of just about every racing-related newspaper, website, forum, blog, tweet, text message, or general conversation surrounding the state of NASCAR as soon as possible. And considering our own article’s placement on the front of the site this morning, guess what? They succeeded in doing just that.

(Sure, A.J. Allmendinger, Michael Waltrip, and J.C. France all made headlines recently, too, but race car drivers involved in alcohol-related traffic incidents are probably not what the series needs at the moment.)

The ire raised by restrictor plates has been compounded recently by a championship battle that seemingly come apart faster than an engine in the No. 11 car. But while Jimmie Johnson is talking a walk on the mild side, on cruise control for his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title, Danica Patrick’s arrival may now spark some renewed interest down the stretch, be it from potential sponsors, media coverage, as well as old and new fans alike – either through legitimate interest or morbid curiosity.

That is not to liken Patrick to some circus sideshow attraction or look-at-the-dancing-bear spectacle, but the excitement generated by those who wish to see her compete, succeed – or even fail miserably – will impact the sport greatly, and give an immediate boost to a product that has grown decidedly stale in recent years.

So when does this party get started, you might ask?

When questioned regarding the possibility of Patrick making her debut as soon as this season, Rick Hendrick categorically denied the rumor that she would be competing in two weeks at Phoenix International Raceway – which just so happens to be in Patrick’s backyard. It is also the headquarters of JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports sponsor, and you all should all be familiar with Patrick’s affiliation with the domain registrar, since she is a “GoDaddy Girl,” which helped connect the dots between Patrick and the team she would likely end up signing with.

But since Patrick’s name and car would need to be submitted already to meet the entry deadline, that option is likely out the window. There has also been no talk of seat fittings or clandestine test sessions with any teams recently, so it would seem a bit premature for such an undertaking to be thrown together at the last second in the penultimate race of the season. That, combined with the fact that she would have to be approved by NASCAR for competition first, has silenced any possibility of that happening.

As things stand now, Patrick will make her debut during Speedweeks 2010 in Daytona, in both the Nationwide and ARCA Series – which are sound choices for her first races. Superspeedways seem to be her strong suit over in open-wheel, as witnessed by her consistently stout performances in the Indianapolis 500. The two weeks spent in Daytona will help get her acclimated to the cars, the track, and the difference of discipline between driving open-wheel cars and NASCAR stock cars. Should she not gain NASCAR approval for superspeedway action at Daytona, she would likely compete the following week at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The first year is expected to be no more than a learning curve at best; with the addition of the new Nationwide CoT working its way into team inventories in 2010 in preparation for 2011, Patrick will be on more equal footing during her second year of competition.

As big of an announcement as this will be, some will still decry this as little more than a publicity stunt. After all, NASCAR like the rest of the nation could use some good news right now, as the past few months have been quite a burden to bear. The gloom and doom that has plagued NASCAR and motorsports in general all year has undoubtedly taken its toll, from the start-and-park fiasco in all three series, sponsorship woes affecting large and small teams alike, followed by the government seiz …errr… bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, coupled with the insufferable on-track product masquerading as racing and coverage, has fan apathy rising to levels that would make even Jimmy Carter indifferent.

The reaction following this past weekend at Talladega was potentially the last block yanked out of the Jenga! stack before it all collapses. But with the addition of a fresh face and hair not seen since Kyle Petty was dispatched in a silent coup, there at least looks to be something positive to talk about in NASCAR for 2010. It’s just the weight of the NASCAR world will now, in effect, be placed squarely on the shoulders of a 5’2”, 110 lb. brunette.

That’s not an easy burden to bear. But should she succeed, she will be worth every penny they are paying her – and her weight in gold.

Contact Vito Pugliese

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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11/05/2009 07:32 AM

Sounds good to me. Looking forward to seeing what she can do in a car that can win races—unlike the one she drives in the IRL.

Looks like I get the first comment—now we’ll no doubt see 15-20 comments about how she’s “overrated” and “overhyped” and “just a sex symbol.”

So I’ll start things off intelligently and logically with “good for her, welcome.”

Wilbure the Turtle
11/05/2009 08:05 AM

Who Cares what Danica does, she’s at best a C rated driver and couldn’t perform in the IRL and now she is going to come to the dying NASCRAP to save it? It’s just another BS Brian Farce attempt at drumming up ratings by having this bimbo in race suit show up every week.

11/05/2009 08:40 AM

You guys are just writing about htis because Jr. is in the story. If she was racing for Jimmy Means Racing, you would never speak of it.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
11/05/2009 09:17 AM

Well Bob, it is kind of a big story.

And too bad she isn’t driving that baby blue Alka-Seltzer car for Jimmy…

Mr. Sanderson
11/05/2009 10:13 AM

Hopefully Viagra sponsors her.

Mrs. Esterhouse
11/05/2009 10:18 AM

Trojan would be a good one. Although I’d advise against using protection with her.

The Turnip!
11/05/2009 10:59 AM

mmm, the comment “ she is dipping her painted toes in the stock car waters”, will she be comparing the toe nail polish color with Scott Speed?

So sports fans, who’s toes are these?

How neat!

And I just love watching Danica in the INDY CARS!

But at best, I also see her as a “C” class driver in the wide world of stock cars! (oops, sorry, NA$CRAP cars), just bad terminology, sorry!

11/05/2009 11:40 AM

My guess is that all the sponsor commitments and her prior financial success will take the passion for driving away from her, much the same as has happened for Jr.

Don’t look for her to be the next Tony Stewart. Tony LOVES racing and will get into just about anything if he has the free time. Danica seems to be more about self-promotino than actual racing.

She’ll make a splash, particularly with having the best equipment in the Nationwide series. But I wouldn’t look for her to be too successful once she starts running Sprint Cup races.

Dans Mom
11/05/2009 12:05 PM

Are there no other female drivers in this country????

Bill B
11/05/2009 12:14 PM

I agree with John, she is being overhyped. I hope she does well but let’s wait to get excited until she actually does something.

11/05/2009 12:32 PM

I could not make it through this article. Sorry, I can not read such dislike for someone you don’t know. “dipping her painted toes?” “she has nice skin”.. WTF does that have to do with anything?? The article has no credibility due to the authors obvious distane of a women entering Nascar. Something that happened MORE in the 1950’s then TODAY? Don’t beleive, check the facts…

The Turnip!
11/05/2009 01:28 PM

Dang JohnP, ya gone dun it!

Now dunna be putting down some news that makes for different reading than the norm, meaning, snooze, is the race over yet!

And you have to admit, with the 50’s in mind!

This will be the FIRST FEMALE with ANY KIND OF CREDENTIALS, to enter (what once was) stock car racing!

What other female driver ever made it to 5th in open wheel points, a couple of years in a row yet?

And generally runs in the top 5 or 6, race in, race out?

Yeh, she’s cute (she uses it), yeh, she’s marketable, (she uses it), yeh she’s young, (she uses it), yeh, she can drive a race car, (she uses it), so with all the nambie-pambies, pretty boy’s, lilly whites, spineless, we have masquerading as “race car drivers” now in NA$CRAP!

What’s wrong with the female version?

And if she EVER pee’s in her seat, ala Tony Stewart (and others), that thing would set a record on E-Bay!

Mrs. Esterhouse
11/05/2009 01:38 PM

JohnP, its disdain, not distane. Try using a dictionary next time moron. By the way, I disagree with your comments.

11/05/2009 01:51 PM

Whoo! Bring on the GoDaddy girls! That’s all I’m glad about with this.

And hey, maybe the writers at this site will start liking Kyle now. (naw)

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
11/05/2009 02:05 PM

JohnP –

Give it another read. I am supportive of Patrick and have long said she would be successful here. I have past articles – one from a month ago – on this site that are archieved detailing this.

The skin comment was in regards to the ACNE refernce I was making to ArcaCampingworldNationwidE.

And yes, it is not the 50’s, because SAC is not running incursions into Russian airspace. For this I am greatly saddened.

11/05/2009 02:17 PM

The reason she wants so much money is to get a boob job. As it is she doesn’t quite fit in with the GoDaddy girls.

11/05/2009 02:34 PM

Staff, why bring politics into it? That’s nuts. SAC? Lol. And yea, I know it stands for “stragitic air command”.

Mrs Esterhouse, get over it, you got my point. But missed it TOTALLY!! Get over your grammer infatuation. Maybe spelled that wrong also. But your not my english teacher are ya? Lol.. If you support an author putting down another woman by calling her names. So be it.

Your choise.

Nascar needs somebody to create some action within Nascar, France and Helton don’t know how to do it. Maybe DP will be the answer. And if “staff” thinks I was alive in the 50’s they are way out of line. It’s all about the history of the sport. And that’s simply in books available to anyone interested enough to look.

11/05/2009 03:10 PM

Try these names – might be an eye opener to some.

Sara Christian
Jennifer Cobb
Kim Crosby
Janet Guthrie
tammy Jo Kirk
Ethel Mobley
Paty Moise
Leilani Munter
Debra Renshaw
mara Reyes
Shawna Robinson
Louise Smith
Kelly Sutton

None of them ever won the Cup. Winston, Nextel, Sprint of otherwise.

However, we still don’t need people saying; and I quote

“she is dipping her painted toes in the stock car waters”

This is coming from a guy mind ya, gotta love that don’t ya english teacher. Lol.

Seriously, Danica has talent, could not compete in the INDY series without it. For people, especially women to put her down is simply caty. But, the english teacher might not understand that. Might not even understand typos.

I’m sorry, Iv’e never been so critical of an artical before but here’s more.. Quote

“Of course, perhaps the most startling thing is how much pomp and circumstance there is for a driver who hasn’t even made it to the major leagues yet.”

Well, she is a top INDY driver!!

11/05/2009 03:38 PM

Give it a chance. I always dream of NASCAR living up to the billing “Worlds Greatest Drivers”…Well to live up to that you have to have that and to have that you have to throw everything there is out there to find it. Case in point all the open wheel drivers that have made an attempt and we find Jaun Paublo Montoya and Tony Stewart are world class drivers. Now give this person their rightful shot. I have followed NASCAR since 1974 and every year there is basically 5 to 6 drivers who know how to get it done and the rest are medicore at best.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
11/05/2009 03:42 PM

…yeah I don’t get it either.

Three of the names you listed are in my column.

Pretty much any interview she does during a photoshoot, she states how much she likes that aspect of her career, as well as the driving. She enjoys being a girl. I would hardly call painted toes being anything remotely insulting. Unless you’re Phil Donnahue.

That major league comment was an editing change. It was pomp and circumstance surrounding a part-time Nationwide Series and ARCA driver.

Feel free to comment on the Top 15 list if you have some time. There is likely something equally revolting and shocking there too.

Kool Aid
11/05/2009 03:56 PM

dontcha love how guys like johnp and turnip troll the internet all day and night reading about nascar then pretend like they are some sort of long time fans that are more knowledgable than the rest of the people here.

i thought it was a great article. danica is big news no matter what. if she showed up at a nascar event to play with matchbox cars it would be huge news.

i can’t for the life of me see how anyone could think the author has a problem with a female entering the nascar ranks.

11/05/2009 04:04 PM

Vito says: “That major league comment was an editing change.”

Should of been….

“It was pomp and circumstance surrounding a part-time Nationwide Series and ARCA driver.”

Vito, they should of printed it that way. Period. The editors changed the meaning of the article. And that simply is wrong. If they don’t like what you write, they should not print it. But to change what you write is plain wrong. I’ll take you for your word. With that additional information, your correct. For someone not proven in NASCAR there is to much pomp. But in reality, that’s not what your work said. Sorry, got to go with what is said, not ment.

And no, I’m not a Phil kinda guy, bairly remember him. Just a basic Nascar fan that wants the sport brought back.

The Turnip!
11/05/2009 04:30 PM

Well Kool Aid, not sure what your point is/was, as I said I like Danica, always root for her (can I say that “root”?), just not convinced she will do good in NA$CRAP, but as stated many times before, if she can make money at it, that is what it is all about! (look at Jr.)

And if you really want to know, my first Indy 500 was 1957, not sure my first NA$CRAP race because I used to walk as a teen, to the State Fair Grounds, in the EARLY 50’s, to watch the USAC (I think that is what it was called back then), Indy cars & Stock Cars on the mile dirt! Still got the grit in my teeth!

So I am stating, whether it gives one credibility or not, my “personal” opinions are based on waaay over 55 years, and hundreds, if not thousands of races under my belt. Have been to Daytona a dozen or more times, Talladega even more, and the list goes on!

Never mind the trips to my “local” track, MIS! For years NEVER missed ANY race held there! (until the POS came along anyway)!

And there’s more, but I won’t bore you with any more details.

And remember, opinions are just that, opinions, and some of us just enjoy stirring up the mud, which in NA$CRAP these days is a very easy thing to do indeed!

Thanks for allowing me to get you excited!


Dang! And one more thing, if ANYONE has a doubts about Danica driving a race car, please, please, go to Indy during practice. Watch her come down the main straight at well over 220+, and dive into turn one, WITHOUT LIFTING!


The Turnip!
11/05/2009 04:35 PM

Hey JohnP, “stragitic air command”.

And, Your “choise”.


Oh, and that’s what “DP” stands for, “Danica Patrick”, I could go a very long way with that one for sure.

11/05/2009 05:36 PM

Best of luck to her.

11/05/2009 06:46 PM

Turnip, you go where your mind takes you. I’ll stick to the article.

The Turnip!
11/05/2009 08:41 PM

Hey JohnP, yeh, thats kinda a problem I have!

11/05/2009 09:42 PM

“That is not to liken Patrick to some circus sideshow attraction or look-at-the-dancing-bear spectacle”. Do you seriously think she is going to be much more than that? NA$CAR’s already using her to wag the dog.
“but the excitement generated by those who wish to see her compete, succeed – or even fail miserably – will impact the sport greatly, and give an immediate boost to a product that has grown decidedly stale in recent years”.
So now NA$CAR no longer has to fix the racing problems, they have Danica. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that all of us fans who have voiced our complaints about the state of NA$CAR were to blind to realize all we really need is DANICA. It will be great. We’ll not only have JJ, the “Anointed One”, but the “Savior” right along with him.
Ah, JR Motorsports. You think Jr’s been distracted by his other commitments just wait till he gets her to the Whiskey River. Go Daddy, Go Daddy. Oh, as the oval track turns.

11/05/2009 09:49 PM

I’ll be watching closely and I really wish her all the luck. Hey Turnip “DP” :^) I enjoy The Turnip’s views as much as the articles – Keep on Truckin’ Turnip!

Bad Wolf
11/05/2009 11:14 PM

I don’t think the networks will be able to squeeze anything other than Dale Jr., Danica and the Chase into their race broadcasts. As it stands now 33% of the coverage is Jr., 33% is the chase, and when Danica comes over there goes another 33% of the coverage. That leaves just 1% for any meaningful race coverage.

Just one more mediocre points racer coming over to Nascar to expand their “Brand”, as the networks and Nascar heads milk it for all it’s worth, while diluting the actual racing even more.

Here is the summation of Danica’s first year in Cup;

Welcome to the Daytona 500. Danica, Danica, Danica, Danica, Jr, Danica, Jr, Jr, Jr, Danica, If the race ended now, Jr, Danica, Jr, Danica. Now a word from our sponsors, Go Daddy, Go Daddy, Amp, Amp, Amp, Go Daddy, Go Daddy, Go Daddy, UPS, Amp, Amp.

Welcome Back, Danica, Jr, Jr, Danica, Rowdy Busch, Danica If the race ended now, Danica, Danica, Jr, Jr, Jr, Jr, Jr, Jr, If the race ended now. Danica, Danica, Jimmy Johnson, Danica, Jr, If the race ended now.

Thats all from Daytona. Tune in nest week for Danica, Danica, Danica, Jr, Jr, Jr, Jr.

11/06/2009 07:37 PM

Bad Wolf.. I hear you and you might be right. But that’s not her issue. That is Nascar’s issue and the broadcasters issue. Give her a chance, she actually is an Indy driver. All I say, give her a chance. Coverage of Jr and Roudy and possibly Danica is not their falt. Look, and blame Nascar and the broadcasting.

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