In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, underachieving IndyCar driver Danica Patrick will switch to a full time ride in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for 2012. Patrick will race a full schedule for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his JR Motorsports team next year, although she’s expressed interest in competing in the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Preparation for the 500 race generally takes the entire month of May, which would conflict with three scheduled NASCAR Nationwide events. JR Motorsports is eager enough to sign Patrick that they’re willing to work out a solution agreeable to all.
Racing at Indy next year may prove more difficult than it seems, as IndyCar will adopt a new chassis, new aero packages, new engines (from multiple suppliers) and even new fuel. In short, a 2012 IndyCar wont be anything like the current version. If Patrick struggled the entire month of May to find speed in a car she’s driven for seven years, it’s unlikely she’ll be able to step into the new IndyCar and find enough speed to make the field.
Patrick should do better in the Nationwide Series than she’s done in IndyCar, simply because there are fewer variables to stock car setup than to winged, open-wheel racecar setup. Patrick has been a big draw for the IndyCar series, but she’s won just one race (on pit strategy), despite running with some of the strongest teams in the league. She’ll draw fans to the Nationwide Series as well, and I suspect that’s more important than how Patrick qualifies or finishes.