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Latest Nascar news...... Welcome on the Chevy Speed Shop Nascar site..Latest Nascar news......Danica Patrick will be taking her show to the NASCAR Nationwide series next season, how will she do ? ..................................
Can Danica Patrick Make The Grade In NASCAR ?

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Danica Patrick will be taking her show to the NASCAR Nationwide series next season, how will she do ?
Credit: PaddockTalk/Paul Hurley

By Anne Proffit

NASCAR is about to find out what it’s like to have the Indy Racing League’s 100-pound gorilla in the house, as Danica Patrick begins her foray into the world of stock car racing.

Confirming one of those “worst-kept” secrets that are the backbone of motorsports media, Patrick announced on 8 December that she intends to run a limited number of NASCAR Nationwide Series races with JR Motorsports, working under the tutelage of crew chief Tony Eury Jr.

If this is the way Patrick’s career is headed, I think it’s a good choice to do her baptism before and after her day job takes place – the IZOD IndyCar Series runs from mid-March to early October of 2010. She starts her stock car career in the ARCA contest at Daytona International Speedway the day before the 2010 NFL Super Bowl. Her first test in an ARCA stock car takes place at Daytona next week.

Patrick will race under the green-and-black colors of – her supporter in the open wheel arena with Andretti Autosport – and already, track operators are hoping that Patrick will choose to show up at their venues.

Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, which hosts the second Cup race of the season is hoping she’ll gain the accreditation at Daytona that will permit Patrick to race in the Nationwide opener at their track. Kentucky Speedway, too, hopes Patrick will race in their event in mid-June when the ICS has an off-weekend.

After all, she brings in more women, obviously, but there are men (and women, too) who will come to her races just to see if she can manhandle (pun intended) one of these very large and lazy stock cars.

Granted, Danica Patrick is no wimp. Anyone who’s ever experienced her handshake can tell you that. She’s in awesome condition and is likely physically ready for the demands of stock car racing. Whether she is mentally prepared, however, is another question.

After all, this is the driver who has let her emotions run rampant when she’s felt – rightly or wrongly – abused on a racetrack. While best known for her debut near-win in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, it’s Patrick’s temper tantrums have given her as much press as her on-circuit prowess. Just ask a few of her victims: Dan Wheldon, Ryan Briscoe and, yes, Milka Duno.

The question remains, then, does Danica Patrick have the patience for the “rubbing is racing” set? The first time she gets bump-drafted will she react in an angry manner? Will there be a Charles Burns to stop her from ripping someone a new hole?

NASCAR is licking its chops at the prospect of having another publicity machine on its hands, particularly with the JR Motorsports affiliation that brings together Dale Earnhardt Jr, his sister Kelley, NASCAR’s nine-time championship team owner Rick Hendrick and Eury Jr. The Nationwide Series needs up-and-coming stars rather than carpetbaggers from the Sprint Cup side of the equation.

Grandstands are normally not full for the Nationwide races – would they be if Patrick were there to race? Some will come to see her fail, and it’s unlikely she’ll have the mercurial success enjoyed in her first IndyCar Series season. Rather, Danica Patrick must spend good time learning and listening from those to whom she has entrusted her career, as she initially did at Rahal Letterman Racing.

The road to stock car success hasn’t been great for other IndyCar stars: Dario Franchitti couldn’t make the grade and Sam Hornish Jr continues to have his own troubles (a lot of that comes down to equipment for both). Juan Pablo Montoya is just now beginning to make his mark in Cup competition, having qualified for the Chase this season – and some of his success has to do with a Ganassi change to Chevrolet power this year.

Danica Patrick could make the switch – eventually – to running stock cars fulltime, but in the meantime, her part-time dalliance brings a halo effect to the open wheel arena, whether she has the goods or not. For a series that desperately needs more publicity, this is a grand way to keep the IZOD ICS name in the public’s mind before and after the protracted season begins.

Patrick is NOT the first woman to try NASCAR competition and certainly won’t be the last, but she surely is the most publicized, thanks to her body conditioning, sexy good looks and yes, her ability to drive a racecar and win, even if only once in five seasons. It’s no falsehood that Danica Patrick has improved greatly over her open wheel career.

Here’s hoping she can make the grade – her failure is really not an option.

(c) 2009 Anne Proffit

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