Danica seems to have followed Tony Stewart's advice
When deciding how to enter NASCAR next season,
Patrick visited the Stewart-Haas Racing shop several times over the summer, sparking rumors that she might drive for it in 2010. The rumors were far off the mark; Stewart-Haas doesn't have a Nationwide Series team and has no plans to start one soon. Stewart, however, knew that Danica needed to begin driving stock cars in the Nationwide Series. He also knew that she should only accept a deal with a top team -- she shouldn't make a deal just to get in the series. It appears Patrick listened to Stewart; Patrick's Nationwide schedule hasn't been determined, but she'll be doing it with JR Motorsports, the
This is what Stewart had to say about Patrick in September: "She wants to do it the right way, she has every intention of doing everything right and she's kind of come to us to see in our opinion how she should go about it."
Danica is right to follow Stewart's advice; he has been the most successful of the IndyCar drivers who have made the switch to Sprint Cup, where he has won two championships.
Stewart's switch began in 1995, when, at the age of 24, he became the first driver in United States Auto Club history to win all three national series -- Midget, Sprint Cars and Silver Crown -- in the same season. After seeing former USAC Midget and Silver Crown champion
Stewart also competed in the Indy Racing League's inaugural season, in 1996, as there was nothing in his contract with Rainer to prevent Stewart from also racing in it. Initially,
Stewart drove in nine races for Rainer in Nationwide and five in IndyCar in 1996. At the end of the year, Stewart was spotted by
Stewart also drove full time in IndyCar in 1998, but in the spring he signed a long-term deal with Gibbs to move to Sprint Cup. Stewart drove in 22 Nationwide races that season, bringing his career total to 36, and became a Cup sensation in 1999, winning four races and finishing fourth in the championship.
With her commitment for the full IndyCar schedule with Andretti Autosport for the next two years, Patrick will run a limited schedule in Nationwide, which should be enough for her and her team to make a realistic evaluation of the next step: more Nationwide or Cup. Or, maybe to decide the experiment has failed and go back to entirely concentrating on IndyCar.
As the co-owner at Stewart-Haas, Stewart will be watching Patrick's progress carefully. It has been widely speculated that, when GoDaddy.com sponsored
"It [(2011] is on the radar for sure," Stewart said last week at the International Motorsports Industry Show, which he co-founded, in Indianapolis. "If we can find the right opportunity that makes sense, we'd love to do that. The goal from day one when we had our talks with Haas was to make it a four-car team.
"We're not planning on going from two to four cars. We wanted to make sure two went well before we added the third and make sure three go well before we added the fourth. I think this was a good enough year for us (with Stewart and
The third car in 2011 could be for either
Would Patrick be open to Stewart's offer? Undoubtedly. Why wouldn't she want to work directly under the driver who mastered the switch from IndyCar to Cup?