Speculation of a full-time NASCAR switch for IndyCar driver Danica Patrick has moved into top gear ahead of the 29-year-old’s return to the Nationwide Series this weekend.
Patrick will recommence her 12 event Nationwide Series schedule at Chicagoland Speedway, following a disappointing Indianapolis 500 campaign that saw a 28th placed qualifying effort and a 10th place finish.
Founder and CEO of Patricks’ long-time sponsor GoDaddy.com, Bob Parsons, has fuelled speculation that his driver will make a full-time switch to NASCAR when her contract with the Andretti Autosport IndyCar team finishes at the end of this year.
“She hasn’t told me she will (make the switch), but I believe she will and we’ll be ready,” Parsons told ESPN.
“Here’s the fact: she loves it (NASCAR), it’s much more exciting than IndyCar, with all due respect, and the TV audience for NASCAR is off the hook.
“She came up to me right after she did her first NASCAR race (at Daytona, 2010).
“She said to me, ‘I absolutely loved it. This is what I was born to do.”
NASCAR team owners and drivers were inundated with questions about Patrick at the weekend’s Coca Cola 600, with Stewart Haas Racing owner/driver Tony Stewart one of several to express interest in finding a program for Patrick.
“Anybody that’s got a Cup team that would have the availability would jump at the chance to do something with her,” said Stewart.
“You would be crazy not to entertain an offer like that and an opportunity for her to drive a race car for you.”
While Stewart said he would entertain the idea of fielding a Sprint Cup car, rather than a Nationwide program, it is believed Patrick is keen to spend a full-season in the second division before moving into the main show.
The most likely scenario is for Patrick to continue with Dale Earnhardt Jr’s JR Motorsports, for which she has driven all of her 17 Nationwide races thus far.
Patrick was tight-lipped when quizzed on her plans at Indianapolis.
“I suppose anything is possible, but I know for me, I haven’t made any decisions yet,” she said.