Danica Patrick

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From Sporting News Wire Service

In broad strokes, Danica Patrick painted a picture of her future in NASCAR racing.

But there was far less detail on her landscape Tuesday morning than on the giant frescoes of Arizona's natural wonders high above the Rotunda floor at Phoenix's Chase Field, where the IndyCar Series' most popular driver announced a two-year Nationwide Series deal with JR Motorsports.

Here's what is known after the 40-minute news conference, where Patrick, JRM co-owner Kelley Earnhardt and GoDaddy.com founder and CEO Bob Parsons unveiled the No. 7 Chevrolet that Patrick will drive in a limited number of Nationwide races in 2010.

* Patrick will make her stock car racing debut in the ARCA race February 6 at Daytona International Speedway, the day before the NFL Super Bowl. To prepare for that event, Patrick will participate in an ARCA test December 18-20 at Daytona.

* Most of Patrick's Nationwide races will be bookended around her IndyCar season, which begins March 14 in Brazil and ends October 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

* Web hosting provider GoDaddy.com will sponsor Patrick in the races she runs.

* Tony Eury Jr., former Sprint Cup crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a JRM co-owner with Kelley Earnhardt, Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick, will serve as Patrick's crew chief.

Beyond that, plans are vague. Still to be worked out are Patrick's Nationwide debut, her entire Nationwide schedule (probably 10-12 races), and where and when she will test after December 20. The unanswered questions, however, didn't dull the luster of Patrick's flamboyant foray into a realm where the cars aren't as fragile as they are in the open-wheel ranks.

"I think my determination and commitment are really going to be what makes this thing go well," said Patrick, who arrived at the press conference as the "GoDaddy Girl," wearing her familiar zippered GoDaddy outfit and black gladiator heels.

After the formal portion of the news conference, Patrick admitted she'll feel the pressure to perform in her new role as a stock car driver.

"I'm a competitive driver, and I always want to do well, and this will be absolutely no different," she said. "In fact, there's no reason to think it'll be any less (pressure). There's going to be a lot of people watching, and there's been speculation for a long time about it.

"I will approach this just like I do every other race that I go to, and I'll give it my all."

Patrick said she pays little attention to the naysayers who doubt her ability to make the transition from open-wheel cars to stock cars.

"I really don't think a lot about that kind of stuff," she said. "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion - that's fine with me. My job is to prove to all the people that are around me that I'm committed, that I want to do this, that I'm willing to put in the right amount of effort, and that's all I have to do."

Whether the Nationwide deal is a steppingstone to the Sprint Cup Series also remains to be seen.

"I think that's the natural thing to do, to see how it goes," said Patrick, who finished a career-best fifth in the IndyCar Series standings this year. "There's no plans right now to do anything beyond (doing) this partial schedule, but, obviously, we'll have to ask ourselves that question (about a move to Cup) if it goes well."

Parsons doesn't doubt the ability of his star spokesperson for a second.

"This is probably the fourth year that we've sponsored Danica Patrick," Parsons said. "We started a number of years ago, featuring her in our commercials. Over that time, I've gotten to know her, and the one thing I can tell you - when she goes into NASCAR, she's no wilting flower. That gal is going to trade a lot of paint…

"This suits her just fine."

JRM still must fill a half-season's sponsorship for its No. 88 Chevrolet, to be driven by Kelly Bires in 2010, and Kelley Earnhardt thinks signing Danica will help.

"Obviously, she elevates our program and elevates the sport," Kelley Earnhardt said. "It's going to have some different eyeballs on JR Motorsports, in a good way. Obviously, we're tied up with her on sponsorship, but it brings new light to JR Motorsports, so hopefully that will help us…

"It's very exciting. The branding and the stuff that we've done with Dale Jr. - to be where he is in the sport - it's equally exciting to bring her along and just have a new set of eyeballs watching and the female factor, with the young girls and the role model thing. I'm really excited about it."

Tickets for 2010 at Phoenix International Raceway can be purchased online at PhoenixRaceway.com or by calling 1-866-408-RACE (7223). The PIR Ticket Office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 125 S. Avondale Blvd., just south of I-10 at Exit 131 in Avondale.

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