It's Danica time in NASCAR.
Not full time, though. Yet.
As expected, Izod IndyCar Series star Danica Patrick confirmed yesterday that she will race a limited NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule next year. Patrick also will race one ARCA Re/Max Series event. She'll make her debut in the season-opening Feb. 6 ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway.
Patrick, IndyCar's most marketable racer despite only one career victory, will drive stock cars for JR Motorsports. She will continue racing full time in IndyCar for Andretti Autosport, owned by Michael Andretti.
"It's been a long time coming, but the stars finally aligned for me with GoDaddy and JRM," Patrick said at a news conference in Phoenix, where her green-and-orange No. 7 Chevrolet was unveiled. "I'm finally ready [for NASCAR]. The schedule doesn't intimidate me as much as it used to."
GoDaddy.com also sponsors Patrick in the IndyCar Series. JR Motorsports was founded by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick. It is co-owned by Earnhardt's sister, Kelley.
Patrick, 27, knows she has a lot to learn about racing stock cars. All she has to do is ask Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr. Both were successful in open-wheel racing, but it has taken them time to become factors in NASCAR.
Montoya made this year's Chase for the Championship, but it took him 3 years to get there. Hornish, in his second full year in the Sprint Cup Series, is still a middle-of-the-pack racer.
Most observers think Patrick cannot run up front in NASCAR races until she commits to the series full time.
Patrick's plan is to compete in Nationwide races before and after the IndyCar Series, which runs from March until early October.
"Danica and I are working hard for a win at the Indianapolis 500," Andretti said. "Keeping the race schedules separate will help keep her focused."
Kelley Earnhardt handled the negotiations bringing Patrick to JR Motorsports. She hopes expectations aren't too high for Patrick.
"She's got to get in there and get used to the cars," Earnhardt said. "Hopefully, everybody will remember that and won't be so quick to judge."
Think the Daytona ARCA race and the Nationwide races Patrick enters will sell a few tickets?
Another ARCA driver making news is Nick Igdalsky. A senior vice president at Pocono Raceway, Igdalsky plans to drive a Ford full time in the ARCA series for Belmont Racing. ModSpace, based in Berwyn, Pa., is sponsoring Igdalsky.