Danica Patrick reaches NASCAR deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Part - but not all - of the plans IndyCar Series star Danica Patrick has to enter NASCAR will finally be revealed today.

Patrick, whose flirtation with NASCAR has been the subject of speculation for months, has signed a contract with JR Motorsports to run a limited schedule in the Nationwide Series, beginning next season, The Charlotte Observer has learned.

Exactly what that schedule includes remains unclear.

Sources said no specific number of races - or even her first Nationwide race - will be announced today.

What is clear is that open-wheel racing's most popular driver will join forces with NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of four owners of JR Motorsports.

Patrick will take her first official venture in a stock car next week, when she participates in the Automobile Racing Club of America test session Dec. 18-20 at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick is planning to enter the Feb. 6 ARCA season opener in a JR Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet. Her performance in that race will in part determine what Nationwide races she does in 2010, sources said.

Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday that his sister, team executive vice president Kelley Earnhardt, was in negotiations to put Pat-

rick in a car for a partial Nationwide schedule.

Patrick, 27, announced last week that she would compete in the full IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport for at least the

next two seasons , with a mutual option for a third.

Patrick signed with the Andretti Autosport before the 2007 season and became the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race at the 2008 Japan Indy 300. She also was the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 (in 2005) and was third there this season on the way to finishing fifth in the IRL season championship.

The NASCAR season starts in February with the Daytona 500, and the 17-race IRL season begins March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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