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NASCAR Steals Patrick Away from IRL

Article first published as NASCAR Steals Patrick Away from Indy Racing League on Technorati.

Danica Patrick announces full-time NASCAR Nationwide campaign for 2012.

The worst kept secret in motorsports became official today. Danica Patrick announced (to the few dozen people who didn’t already know) she would be leaving the Indy Car League for racing pursuits in NASCAR.

Patrick will run a full-time campaign in the Nationwide series in 2012 driving the GoDaddy sponsored JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

In a press conference today with GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons at her side, an exuberant Patrick revealed the obvious with a sly smile, “In breaking news that will shock the world…”

After her first stock car experience in the ARCA series at Daytona 2010, Patrick climbed from her race car and said, “…the most fun I had ever had in a race car.” It’s likely her decision to move to NASCAR was inevitable.

“The experience was something I’ve really, really enjoyed,” Patrick said. “The time is now. The opportunity is now. Bob and GoDaddy have made that possible. I want to do it.

“I don’t want to wait years. I want to do it now. And I’m lucky enough to have a sponsor that will stand behind me and allow me to go.”

In addition to her full-time duties with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race team, she has agreed to run 8-10 races with Stewart-Haas racing. (Tony Stewart) Patrick dismissed questions about the 2012 Daytona 500 saying, “We’re definitely considering that, but the schedule right now for the Sprint Cup races next year is not set. The actual races themselves have not been chosen yet.”

Patrick’s decision is a win-win for NASCAR and a lose-lose for the IRL. She has literally been the face of Indy car racing since 2005. It’s likely she will run the Indy 500 next year but beyond that her open wheel days, for now, are behind her. A press release on the Andretti Autosports web site today states, “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’s next race for JR Motorsports will be at Richmond on September 9th. She is also scheduled to race at Kansas, Texas, Phoenix and the season finale at Homestead.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France had this to say following the announcement. “We are pleased Danica Patrick has chosen to race full time in NASCAR in 2012. 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.”