Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Patrick's Best Assets Just Might Be Her New Boss
by David Caraviello
They met, oddly enough, in Monte Carlo, and oddly enough, on the set of a music video. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, the most popular and marketable drivers in their respective racing disciplines, had never laid eyes on one another until hip-hop star Jay-Z brought them together in 2006 for the opening sequence of his Show Me What You Got video, a James Bond homage that features Earnhardt and Patrick racing sports cars in and around the Mediterranean principality.
"We hit it off really well," Patrick remembered. "He's a really, really nice guy. I have a lot of respect for him, a lot to learn from him. But we get along great."
And now, three years later, just look at what that unusual introduction may have wrought. Patrick announced Tuesday that she will drive a No. 7 JR Motorsports entry in a limited number of Nationwide Series events for the 2010 season, most of them on either side of a 17-race IndyCar slate that opens March 14 in Brazil and ends Oct. 2 at Homestead, Fla. Next week's ARCA test at Daytona International Speedway -- in preparation for her debut in that series Feb. 6 -- will be her first time in a stock car since a test at Greenville-Pickens Speedway almost a decade ago.
"I remember thinking, compared to my open-wheel car, this thing doesn't stop very well," she said of that experience. "I was like, are these brakes working?"
By now, the steepness of Patrick's on-track learning curve has been well-documented. To her credit, she's taking it relatively slow, starting out with the partial Nationwide schedule -- how many races that exactly entails, we still don't know -- and not leaping directly into Sprint Cup. And yet, some have questioned whether her plan to race in two series at one time will allow her to succeed in either one. And then there's the matter of her rather scant resume in open-wheel cars, and how that compares to some series champions and Indianapolis 500 winners who took years to adjust to stock cars, if they ever made it at all.
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