Current IRL driver Danica Patrick is in the final stages of a deal to run a full-time Nationwide Series schedule next year and also a few Sprint Cup Series races as well. If that sounds like a full schedule, it is. That means Patrick will be moving on from the IRL circuit she has raced for since 2005.
For those who don’t know, the Nationwide Series is basically NASCAR’s minor leagues. It’s the place where the future stars of NASCAR fine-tune their skills as they await openings at the next level. It’s also a place where NASCAR’s stars occasionally race to snag extra paychecks. Patrick will have to cut her teeth in the Nationwide Series before getting a shot at a full-time NASCAR ride.
Reports say she is going to sign her Nationwide deal with JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has said he wants Patrick to run a full schedule with his team. Currently she has 19 Nationwide starts over the past two seasons and is scheduled for six more this year.
Patrick’s deal to run in the Sprint Cup Series will reportedly come with Tony Stewart’s team. Stewart wants to expand his Stewart-Haas Racing team but doesn’t want to field a Nationwide car. Stewart-Haas currently has two cars, and adding Patrick would increase that number to three for certain selected events.
Despite all of that, Patrick will probably ask to be allowed to race in the Indianapolis 500 next year. Drivers typically have to spend most of the month of May in Indianapolis in preparation for the race though, and this year the Nationwide Series held three races in that time span. That means that if Patrick is going to be seriously challenging for the Nationwide championship, she won’t be able to run at the 500.
Frankly, at this point Patrick is more well-known as being the GoDaddy girl then a great race car driver. In 109 career starts in the IRL she has one win, 20 top-five finishes and has earned three poles. Additionally, she is winless in 19 career Nationwide races, though she led 13 laps at Daytona last month until some chaos on the final lap sent her to a 10th-place finish.
Patrick’s move to the Nationwide Series is a logical step. She isn’t winning championships in the IRL, and a move to another series will probably serve her well.