NASCAR- The country’s most marketable driver is days away from committing to run in NASCAR full time. We know she’ll have some new competition, but that’s not stopping her!
For weeks, reports have circulated that Patrick was contemplating the jump from IndyCar to NASCAR. ESPN, citing multiple sources, reported on Wednesday that Patrick has made her decision and will announce her intentions to run full time in the Nationwide Series, the equivalent of NASCAR’s Triple-A minor league level, beginning in 2012. She’ll continue to race in the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, her sponsor for her first two part-time years in NASCAR.
More intriguing are reports that she, like many other Nationwide drivers, will run select Sprint Cup races as part of Stewart-Haas Racing. The endgame there would be a full-time Sprint Cup seat for Patrick starting in the 2013 season.
The full-time move to NASCAR could mean the end of Patrick’s Indy 500 career, as NASCAR’s marquee Coca-Cola 600 runs on the same day and could conflict, timewise, with Patrick’s plans to run a full Nationwide schedule. “The Indy 500 runs right in the middle of Charlotte, so, we would definitely want her to contend full time for the championship, and I think she would too,” JR Motorsports co-owner Kelly Earnhardt said in addressing this topic in June. “That’s something she has to decide. If she’s going to come over and run, she’s going to do all 35 races, not 34.”
And, while we like to steer clear of female athletes receiving press for their looks, we have to face the facts. She’s VERY marketable (think Gina Carano in MMA). Her earnings of $12 million last year place her behind only tennis players Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova among female athletes.
Patrick is expected to make a formal announcement sometime next week.