Driver prepares for NASCAR's pressure

PHOENIX --- Danica Patrick received all kinds of advice during her lengthy flirtation with NASCAR. Some encouraged her to give it a try, while others openly wondered why IndyCar's biggest star would open herself up to such scrutiny.


Now that she's officially a part-time NASCAR driver -- she announced a two-year deal Tuesday to drive for the second-tier Nationwide Series team owned by Rick Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- how will she be received?

"I expect her to be eaten up by the wolves," joked Kelley Earnhardt, general manager of JR Motorsports.

There's no doubt Patrick will face an enormous spotlight as she tries to become the only female driver currently competing in one of NASCAR's top two series.

Patrick will run a full IndyCar Series schedule with Andretti Autosport and squeeze NASCAR in when she can. Her immediate plans are to participate in the ARCA test next week at Daytona International Speedway and make her stock-car debut in that series opener Feb. 6 -- one day before she'll star in two Super Bowl ads for sponsor

JR Motorsports fields cars in the Nationwide Series but does not have a schedule mapped out for Patrick. Unclear is how many races she'll run, when she'll fit them in, or when she'll get the seat time needed to learn how to drive a heavy stock car.

Patrick said she can handle the heavy workload.

"If I could show you my schedule these days -- I don't even know what airline I'm getting on anymore, just what time the flight leaves," Patrick said. "I asked Mark Martin 'How do you do it?' and he said he got used to it. I have no doubt I will get used to it."

Patrick unveiled her green and orange No. 7 Chevrolet in a news conference at Chase Field with, which is sponsoring her in both series, as well as Martin in the premier Sprint Cup Series. GoDaddy had an existing relationship with JR Motorsports that helped pave the way for Patrick to choose the Earnhardt-owned team over everyone else jockeying for her in NASCAR.

In the end, though, the crossover relationship with GoDaddy made JR Motorsports the choice. Although she's enormously popular and marketable, Patrick has just one victory in five seasons of IndyCar racing. She has one win, last year in Japan, and 16 top-five finishes.

She was fifth in the standings this past season.



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