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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:02 AM ET, 08/03/2011

Danica Patrick close to Nationwide deal, but would still drive in Indy 500


Danica Patrick at a Nationwide race in June. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
A deal is nearly complete that would allow Danica Patrick to drive a full-time Nationwide Series schedule with JR Motorsports and a limited Sprint Cup Series with Tony Stewart’s Stewart-Haas team, the Associated Press reports.

She would continue to drive in the Indianapolis 500 as well.

All that remains now for Patrick, already rated the third-highest paid female athlete by Forbes, is to start winning.

Her third-place finish in the Indy 500 in 2009 is the highest for a woman in the race. She has one IndyCar victory and is winless in 19 Nationwide races.

Patrick has driven in 19 Nationwide races for JR Motorsports the last two seasons and owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he’s pleased with her performance.

“I would like for her to run fulltime, and I'm sure she is considering that, and I think she would enjoy it,” Earnhardt said at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I feel confident that she's content where she is and happy with what we're doing. I think things are looking positive for us to put something together.”

Driving in the Indy 500 would complicate matters because drivers spend most of May in Indy and Nationwide has three races that month.

“She's way ahead of the curve,” Earnhardt said. “We've had the opportunity to put several drivers in that car, and her performance is right on par with all those drivers. We started out struggling and she had a steep, steep climb to go and she's really come a long way. I'm excited about what the potential is with her going forward.”

By  |  10:02 AM ET, 08/03/2011

 
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