Tag:Danica Patrick
Posted on: August 30, 2011 4:17 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 11:23 am

Idle Thoughts: Indy Car A.D. (After Danica)

(Indy Car has abandoned most tracks that provided this kind of incredible racing)

By Pete Pistone

Put yourself in Danica Patrick’s shoes for a minute, and for the sake of this conversation make them her driving shoes and not the stilettos from one of her GoDaddy commercials. 

If you had the chance to move from Indy Car to NASCAR wouldn’t you do so in a heartbeat? 

The truthful answer is without hesitation. 

The opportunity for Patrick in the land of stock car racing far outweighs anything she could imagine to accomplish by sticking with the current American open wheel scene. NASCAR offers her the chance to build her brand greater than it is today, generate untold millions in marketing and sponsorship, become an even larger worldwide star and to race in the most competitive form of automobile racing in this country. 

It’s an obvious no brainer. 

Though no one expects Patrick to jump right into the role of favorite for next year’s Nationwide Series title, there is no reason to believe she can’t be in the mix for a win or two. 

In just a limited amount of time Patrick already has a fourth place finish at Las Vegas earlier this season to her credit as well as coming pretty darn close to winning last Fourth of July weekend at Daytona. 

Those who doubt her ability are making a big mistake. It’s pretty evident she can drive a racecar and also apparent the more time she spends focusing on her stock car career the better she gets. 

That’s do in no small part to the Nationwide super team Patrick has aligned herself with at JR Motorsports. With Hendrick Motorsports support and engines along with the mentor combo platter of Tony Eury Jr. and Sr., Patrick’s No. 7 Chevrolet is one of the premier rides in NASCAR’s number two division.

Compare the situation to the one she has in the Indy Car series as a member of Andretti AutoSport. While Michael Andretti’s team isn’t a fly by night organization by any means, it isn’t on par with the powerhouses at Penske and Ganassi who have teamed up to win ten of the season’s first fifteen races. 

The difference between the haves and the have nots in Indy Car racing is pretty significant and right now Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi are the major players with the dominant teams. Everyone else, including Andretti’s operation, which does have multiple victories this season, runs for scraps.  

Now look at the situation Patrick finds herself in the Nationwide Series where JR Motorsports is on par with the KHI, Roush Fenway and Penske organizations, the expected cream of next year’s series crop.

When Patrick does finally bid farewell to her Indy Car career, with the possible exception of potential Indy 500 starts, she’ll deal the struggling series a major blow. 

Series officials continue to put on a brave face that the circuit can both survive and prosper without their most famous competitor. 

"I wish her well," said Indy Car CEO Randy Bernard. "We would love for her to stay, but my job is to build the Indy Car Series with the drivers that are here. I'm very excited about the opportunity because I don't believe our ratings or our attendance will decrease without her." 

I admire what Bernard has tried to do in his short tenure at the helm of the series but I’m hard pressed to share his optimism. 

Television ratings are just this side of infomercials and despite putting on occasionally exciting races, the recognition factor for both the series and its drivers is dismal. 

The decision to create a schedule that has ditched most oval tracks for a balance of street circuits and road courses has proven to be unwise and in fact might have helped Patrick expedite her decision to bolt for NASCAR. 

At one time when the Indy Car Series was known as the IRL the core of the circuit was a series of high-speed oval track events that were as exhilarating as any form of racing in motorsports. 

But rather than build on those phenomenal events the series business plan moved away and back to the mix of road races and street circuit events that did bring more diversity to the schedule but did so at the cost of competition. 

The bulk of the Indy Car schedule is now comprised of events like this weekend’s inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore, which will draw a good-sized crowd and more than likely be deemed a financial success. But odds are the actual event itself will be more single file parade than memorable race as is the case with most affairs held on narrow street circuits. 

Indy Car racing’s past is littered with similar failed attempts to bring the racing to the masses with races in San Jose, Denver, Detroit, Vancouver, Houston and even the New Jersey Meadowlands venues where the concept fizzled out. 

Who knows where Indy Car might be today if it had followed the tradition of oval track racing and built upon the heritage of the biggest race on its schedule and in the world – the Indianapolis 500.

The landscape of today’s racing world as well as what lies ahead in the future made Patrick’s decision a pretty simple one. 

No matter what shoes she was wearing at the time.

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Posted on: August 26, 2011 4:08 pm

Tony Stewart looking for Danica partner

By Pete Pistone

Danica Patrick will run 8-10 Sprint Cup Series races for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012 but team owner Tony Stewart would like to add another driver to the mix and field the car for the entire schedule.

Stewart says his organization is actively searching for a driver-sponsor combination that would allow SHR to run three full-time cars next season.

“If we can put together a package to run somebody in the rest of the races, we would love to do that,” Stewart said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to do that and I know it would be good for us as a team to run that car full time next year if that opportunity presents itself.”

There has been speculation that Mark Martin, who is currently without a ride for 2012 after he leaves Hendrick Motorsports at the end of this season, would be partnered with Patrick in the combination plans. However GoDaddy.com will only sponsor Patrick's full Nationwide Series effort for JR Motorsports and the Cup races she runs for SHR. Another sponsor would be needed to run Martin or any other driver for the balance of the schedule.

As for Patrick's plans, Stewart is happy with what's been developed next season as his team gets ready to run her for a full Sprint Cup Series schedule in 2013.

“The way it’s laid out is a really good schedule,” Stewart said. “For her to be in a stock car every week is going to be great for her, it’s going to be a great experience. To run her in the amount of races we’re going to run her in will be good to get her ready for Cup in 2013.”

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 5:36 pm

Danica Patrick makes NASCAR full-time commitment

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

Danica Patrick officially announced Thursday that she would leave the IndyCar Series at the end of the season, to drive full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2012.

Pistone: Up to Danica to now perform

Patrick will remain with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. In 20 career Nationwide starts, she has an average finish of 23.8, with one top five and three top 10s.

Patrick will also try to qualify for eight to10 Sprint Cup races, in a car fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing. One of the races is expected to be the Daytona 500, though at her news conference she couldn't confirm her Cup schedule for 2012.

She has run seven full-time seasons in the IndyCar Series where she has amassed one win, 20 tops fives and 61 top 10s in 111 starts. Her best points finish was fifth in 2009.

What they're saying

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “Danica has done a great job in a short amount of time for JR Motorsports. Her work ethic is probably the best of anyone in the sport.  People don’t understand how difficult it is to do what she did – racing two totally different cars at the same time.  I’m glad she gets the opportunity to devote all of her attention to this car, because I think she’s going to continue getting better.  Danica has earned her place on the track, and I look forward to having her and Go Daddy back in the No. 7 car next year.”

Tony Stewart: “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. 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.

“The thing you see in Danica right away is how determined she is to be good at what she does. She’s very dedicated to taking the time and effort to make the transition from Indy cars to stock cars. She has talent, she has the right mindset and she has the proper drive and determination. It doesn’t matter who it is you’re looking for, those are the key attributes that you look for in a driver, and Danica’s got them.

“I see great things for Danica. Danica doesn’t hold back. She really is a fearless competitor. She’s taken a systematic approach to her stock car career, which is smart. I think with the support she has from Go Daddy and Dale Jr. and all of us at Stewart-Haas Racing, Danica has a very promising NASCAR future.”

Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO: “We are pleased Danica Patrick has chosen to race full time in NASCAR in 2012," said . "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.”

Randy Bernard, IndyCar CEO: "Danica has always been a great ambassador for IndyCar, and there is no doubt  she has left a positive impression on our sport.  She has touched millions of fans and many that were new to motorsports. Danica attracted a fan base that every athlete and sports property in the world would love to have. We should give her a great farewell the rest of this season as she opens a new page in her career and wish her continued success with her new direction. "

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: August 25, 2011 12:43 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 5:02 pm

Up to Danica Patrick to now perform

Image Detail
(She'll need her shades because the spotlight will be brighter than ever for Patrick)

By Pete Pistone

So the long awaited, much-anticipate announcement about Danica Patrick’s plans to become a full-time NASCAR driver were finally unveiled on Thursday. 

And somehow the world kept spinning on its axis. 

The news of Patrick’s plans to ditch her Indy Car career in favor of  running stock cars did not come as a surprise and in fact the announcement didn’t include many details that weren’t known last week. 

Patrick will run a full season in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports, where she’s spent parts of the last two years trying to hone her skills. 

She’ll also compete in a limited Sprint Cup Series schedule with a car prepared out of the Stewart-Haas stables, a calendar that will reportedly begin with the season’s biggest race the Daytona 500 and include up to 8-10 events. The deal will be a precursor to Patrick’s progression into NASCAR’s top series as a full-time competitor in 2013. 

Whether or not she’ll still keep her hand in the Indy Car world with a program that will see Patrick continue to have an opportunity to fulfill her biggest career dream of winning the Indianapolis 500 remains to be seen. 

That’s a pretty full plate for any driver especially one who is still learning on the job. 

Patrick has made some solid strides in her stock car endeavors since first trying her hand driving a car with a roof in 2010. Under the steady guidance of Tony Eury Sr. and Jr. at the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned JR Motorsports organization, Patrick has slowly but surely learned the nuances of wrestling a 3,400 car around high speed NASCAR ovals and maybe more importantly how to communicate the car’s needs to her crew chief. 

Her performance shows improvement nearly every time out particularly when she returns to tracks for a second and third time. Her fourth place finish in Las Vegas back in March, which was the best for a woman in any NASCAR national series, and leading with only a handful of laps remaining at Daytona in July stand out as examples of Patrick’s development. 

“You can’t argue the fact that the more she drives here and the more she can be behind the wheel of a stock car the better she gets,” said Jimmie Johnson. “Like any of us it takes time to learn how to drive these cars and I think she’s done a very good job in a relatively short period of time.” 

But despite the upward spiral Patrick has been on in recent months, she still has a long way to go before most will consider her a legitimate contender for wins or a championship. 

That wont stop the incredibly high expectations Patrick will continue to carry into the next phase of her career. 

Patrick transcends auto racing like similar super star personalities do in other sports. You don’t have to understand a thing about NASCAR to know what Danica Patrick does for a living. 

While NASCAR is certainly banking on that near worldwide appeal to bring more attention to the sport, along with it comes a level of expectation that Patrick will have to live up to. 

Whether it’s fair or not, the hoopla and spotlight that follows Patrick wherever she goes means she’ll have to perform perhaps at an unrealistic pace. 

Even most of today’s NASCAR superstars took time to be competitive and become more seasoned before winning regularly. But that’s a luxury Patrick may not be able to enjoy. 

"I think she can come here, but I look at (Dario) Franchitti, I look at Tony (Stewart) when he first came over from open wheel, I look at Juan (Pablo Montoya) and they are incredibly talented individuals," said former driver and current television analyst Kyle Petty. "Juan Montoya is probably, car control-wise, one of the most amazing human beings you've seen in a car and he struggled for three years at this level, and she's not Juan Montoya.

"She's not Franchitti and she's not. She's not really shown over there (in Indy Car racing) and won races and done stuff over there numbers-wise. She's just a marketing machine. Let's look at the facts and be blunt about it." 

There is no denying Patrick’s ability to promote and her talents as a marketing dream. Even as a part-time NASCAR driver, her souvenir and merchandise sales are among the top tier of the sport. That will only grow as she becomes a regular as will her presence in advertising, television appearances and other sponsorship initiatives on behalf of GoDaddy.com and other corporate partners tied to her star. 

None of that is a bad thing. At a time when NASCAR can use a shot in the arm, having one of the world’s most famous personalities come on board in a full-time capacity will no doubt raise the awareness level as well as generate much more exposure for the sport. 

Patrick naturally brings both a youth and female demographic NASCAR is sorely missing. She was by far the biggest star in Indy Car racing and hopes her large fan base will follow her to the world of NASCAR. 

"I don't know if the fans will continue to follow me, but I hope so,” Patrick said. “Fans followed me for a long time in Indy Car. I hope I don't lose fans who have been awesome supporters of mine and cheered through thick and thin."

The news is finally official. The question now becomes how much thick or thin Patrick will incur behind the wheel of a stock car. 

One thing’s for sure – everyone will be watching.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
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Posted on: August 25, 2011 12:14 pm

Andretti bids Danica Patrick good-bye

Posted by Pete Pistone

Andretti AutoSport responded to Danica Patrick's announcement that she'll pursue a full-time NASCAR career with a statement concerning her departure from the team:

From News Release

INDIANAPOLIS (August 25, 2011) - Andretti Autosport and Danica Patrick announced today that they have a mutual agreement to part ways at the conclusion of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series.  

Patrick, who has driven for Andretti Autosport since 2007, will pursue other interests in 2012.    

Michael Andretti, president and CEO of Andretti Autosport, said he wishes Patrick nothing but the best in her upcoming endeavors and that she is always welcomed to come back to his organization.  

"Danica enjoyed the most success ever by a female driver in the world of motorsports and was a leading marketing force within IndyCar," said Andretti. "I wish her only continued success in her career. I want to thank Danica for her valued time with our team. "  

Patrick became the first female driver to win a major open-wheel event in April, 2008 when she drove the No. 7 Andretti Autosport car to victory at the Twin Ring Motegi oval track in Japan. In addition, she recorded 16 top-five finishes and 45 top-tens in her five years at Andretti Autosport. She placed fifth in the 2009 final IZOD IndyCar Series point standings.  

"While I'm excited for what lies ahead in the coming year and beyond, I also have to thank Andretti Autosport for the opportunities they've given me over the past several seasons," said Patrick. "I've grown a lot as a driver with Andretti Autosport and I'm thankful I was able to be a part of the organization. It's great to be competitive each week and I was in large part because of my crew and engineers and their dedication to success. I earned my first major auto racing victory with the Team in Japan in 2008 and that wouldn't have been possible without the Team's hard work and support." 

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Posted on: August 24, 2011 3:51 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 10:25 am

2012 plans still on hold for many

By Pete Pistone

  Carl Edwards Drives
(Edwards will stay at Roush Fenway Racing but who will sponsor the No. 99 entry in 2012?)

When Carl Edwards signed to stay at Roush Fenway Racing the general consensus was the dominoes throughout the rest of the garage area would begin to fall. 

But so far “Silly Season” has been nothing more than “Snoring Season” with not much else announced for 2012 driver, team and sponsor line-ups. 

Danica Patrick will formally announce her Nationwide Series intentions to run a full year with JR Motorsports in a day or so but the other part of her NASCAR move isn’t as locked down. 

There’s anticipation Patrick will also compete in a handful of Sprint Cup Series races with Stewart-Haas Racing next season but as of last week in Michigan that was news to team owner Tony Stewart. 

“It’s like I’ve always said when we have something to tell everybody we’ll tell them but there’s nothing to tell yet,” Stewart snapped at reporters when questioned on the proposed alignment. “I know there’s a lot of speculation but there is nothing to really talk about yet.” 

Patrick’s part-time Cup program is far from the only plans still up in the air. 

Clint Bowyer would like nothing more than to extend his contract with Richard Childress Racing but despite both the driver and owner publicly admitting their desire to remain together, nothing has been announced. 

Bowyer has tried to put on a brave face but the distraction of trying to finalize his future while concentrating on the current Cup effort isn’t an easy one. 

“It is what it is,” Bowyer said before last week’s Michigan race. “That’s, unfortunately, part of this business every three years, but right now I’m focused on these next four races. I care about the future, but I’ve got to set that aside and focus on getting myself in the Chase.” 

The reported hold-up is around finding necessary sponsorship for the RCR No. 33 entry, which will lose General Mills at the end of this season. Current Steven Wallace Nationwide Series sponsor 5-Hour Energy continues to be in the mix as a potential replacement but right now there is no agreement. 

The same scenario stares David Ragan in the face. The resurgent Roush Fenway Racing driver has been impressive during his summer stretch, which has included a career first Cup win at Daytona Independence Day weekend. But sponsor UPS hold the cards and Roush Fenway Racing is still hoping to keep the company in the fold and in turn Ragan behind the wheel of its No. 6 Ford. 

"What I think about is what I can control," Ragan said a few weeks ago. "I do think about (the future) some, because I've had a great time with UPS and I feel like we have a good relationship and a good thing going and I look for it to continue, but that is something that the management at Roush and UPS will work on. 

"Hopefully, I can uphold my end of the deal and keep that Ford up front." 

Ragan and UPS are not the only sponsorship challenges for the Roush organization with only Greg Biffle’s 3M backing locked down on the No. 16 entry. Matt Kenseth’s ride is without a full-time commitment for 2012 and even prized free agent Edwards doesn’t have a complete season worth of funding for his car. 

Aflac is expected back in a limited role but the Michigan garage area was rampant with rumors Home Depot, who reportedly coveted having Edwards as its spokesperson had he made the move to Joe Gibbs Racing, might find its way to the 99 car. 

The home improvement giant has been a staple of the JGR sponsor stable for years, dating back to its two Sprint Cup championships with Tony Stewart. However since Joey Logano took over the ride from the departed Stewart, the struggling performance level for the young driver has forced Home Depot management to watch arch rival Lowes grab the spotlight for five years running with Jimmie Johnson’s title runs. Some restlessness within Home Depot’s corporate offices would be more than understandable. 

Sponsorship doesn’t appear to be an issue for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Target said to be staying on the No. 42 Chevrolet. However Juan Pablo Montoya has yet to be inked to a contract extension on his deal that runs out at season’s end. The former Indy 500 winner does expect the process to become a formality in short order. 

"We're pretty close. I think we're pretty close, yeah," said Montoya. "We'll see. When it's ready you will know." 

One other major piece of the “Silly Season” puzzle lies with the Team Red Bull organization and the two seats currently occupied by Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers. 

Kahne is headed to Hendrick Motorsports for its No. 5 entry in 2012 but Vickers’ future is very uncertain even if team general manager Jay Frye is able to find investors to keep the organization afloat after Red Bull ceases its ownership stake.

The possibility of Red Bull staying in NASCAR, either with the new team or with another organization, remains alive but several sources familiar with the company say the longer time passes the less likely the company inking a sponsorship-only deal becomes.

In the past most of the maneuverings and signings for the following campaign were put to bed by this time in the season. But not in today’s NASCAR, where the continued rough economy and its impact on sponsorship continues to keep some major players in a state of flux.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 


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Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 10:18 am

Danica Patrick announcement now Thursday

A Wednesday news conference in which Danica Patrick was expected to announce her full-time move to NASCAR in 2012 was postponed and will now be held Thursday at Noon ET in Scottsdale, Ariz., where Patrick's sponsor GoDaddy.com is based.

(You can watch the news conference live at this link -- http://videos.godaddy.com/danica-me

According to multiple reports, Patrick will drive full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2012 for JR Motorsports, the team which she has driven for the past two seasons on a part-time basis.

She's also expected to run a limited schedule in the Sprint Cup Series, driving a car fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing.

In 20 career Nationwide starts, Patrick has an average finish of 23.8, with one top five and three top 10s.

She has run seven full-time seasons in the IndyCar Series where she has amassed one win, 20 tops fives and 61 top 10s in 111 starts. Her best points finish was fifth in 2009.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: August 19, 2011 4:24 pm

Tony Stewart denies Danica Cup plan a done deal

By Pete Pistone

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Forget those reports about Danica Patrick having a done deal next year to run a handful of Sprint Cup Series races for Stewart-Haas Racing in addition to her full Nationwide program for JR Motorsports, at least according to Tony Stewart.

During his media availability Friday at Michigan International Speedway, the team owner took exception to speculation he has the Indy Car star locked into a plan to run as a third entry to Stewart and Ryan Newman in about a dozen Cup races in 2012:

“It’s like I’ve always said when we have something to tell everybody we’ll tell them but there’s nothing to tell yet. I know there’s a lot of speculation but there is nothing to really talk about yet.”

“I don’t care about your sources. When we have something to talk about we’ll talk about it. I promise we won’t leave any of you guys out I promise.”

“What will be soon? I don’t know. I don’t know. If we knew that we’d already be talking about it wouldn’t we. When we have something to talk about I promise you I will not let any of you be late for the deal.”

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