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Danica Patrick headed to NASCAR; Slideshow and SI Swimsuit video

Danica Patrick will be under a lot of scrutiny before and after she puts on a helmet for her first NASCAR race.
Danica Patrick will be under a lot of scrutiny before and after she puts on a helmet for her first NASCAR race.
(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Danica Patrick will drive a limited  NASCAR schedule in 2010, beginning in an ARCA race, and then moving up to the Nationwide Series. Patrick signed a contract to drive for JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Rick Hendrick. She will make her NASCAR debit in the minor league ARCA Series at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 6.

From there Patrick hopes to earn a license to move up to the Nationwide Series. Patrick hopes to move up to the Sprint Cup Series eventually, but her performance in ARCA and Nationwide will determine if and when that move is made.

Danicaunveiled her green and orange No. 7 Chevrolet in a news conference at Chase Field with, who also sponsors her Indy Racing League team. 

It has not been announced how maany races she will run, or at which tracks beyond Daytona.

"I think that (NASCAR) is something we're going to try to do before and after the IndyCar season, but we will look at some options," she said.

Asked whether she could handle the heavier racing schedule Patrick said, "I'm finally ready. I think that the schedule doesn't intimidate me as much as it used to. It's going to be a lot to learn."

Kelley Earnhardt, who is the sister of JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., helped to bring Patrick to the team. When asked about the team's expectations of Patrick, Earnhardt said, "I think it's reasonable for her to be in the top 15 of the series when she's running."

Patrick said she could "barely remember" the last time she was in a stock car and thought it was seven or eight years ago. But she said she's willing to learn a "new craft" and hopes to challenge the top names in NASCAR's Sprint Cup some day.

"Obviously, if ever one day it continued on and I ended up running in the Cup, then I need to learn how to race against those guys and earn their respect," Patrick said. "So I'm excited about that, actually. It's an opportunity to try and show what I've got."

Most fans of the sport I've talked to over the last several months about the possibility of Patrick moving to NASCAR seem to have little faith that she will succeed. I'm not so sure about that. I believe she may very well have some success in the Nationwide Series once she gets some experience under her belt.

How well can she expect to perform in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series? Well, that remains to be seen. It probably won't happen before the 2011 season, if at all. Unless Danica can get a win, or at least a handful of top-10 finishes in the Nationwide Series we will probably never see her racing with the big boys.

Personally I hope she does well. I would like to see her be able to move up and be competitive. NASCAR could use a new star, and having one that would bring what Danica has to offer might be just what the doctor ordered.

NASCAR has seen a decline in attendance and TV ratings over the last few years. Not so long agom it was the fastest growing sport in the nation. Part of the decline in attendance can no doubt be attributed to the economy. But that doesn't account for the loss of television viewers.

If Danica can be as competitive in NASCAR as she has been in the IRL it will be good for the sport. Plus, she ain't bad to look at. Go Danica, Go, Go Danica!