The most popular driver on the Izod IndyCar Series is expected to announce a deal with JR Motorsports that will bring her to NASCAR’s second-tier circuit during a press conference at GoDaddy.com headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., Thursday at noon EST.
Patrick — who finished third in the 2009 Indy 500 — has driven in 20 Nationwide races for JR Motorsports over the last two seasons and is scheduled to compete in five more this year. She has one career IndyCar victory — the first for a woman in a major-league oval race — and is currently ranked No. 12. Patrick has never won a Nationwide even but led at Daytona 500 for 13 laps last month before eventually finishing 10th.
NASCAR pundits and fans have long awaited the move and many believe Patrick is ready for the challenge. But her inability to win races to this point, have others, including Speed analyst Kyle Petty, thinking she may struggle out of the gates.
Petty told USA Today Patrick could be in for a difficult transition:
“She’s made huge strides from the first year. She’s brought it up from getting lapped to being in contention, and I give her huge props for that. But I think she’ll have a hard time competing every week.”
Other drivers who have become stars after making the jump to NASCAR’s top level know the process is different for every driver.
“The hardest thing is it's not what somebody else tells you is success," Tony Stewart told USA Today. "What you feel like you've taken away from each race no matter what the result determines the success. It's not always measured by what you see in the finishing standings or the qualifying standings. If you feel like you're making progress, then you are, even though the result may not show it."
Patrick is currently rated the third-highest paid female athlete by Forbes, and her notoriety will only increase with her move to NASCAR. She’s already become a marketing juggernaut for the racing industry and her brand will continue to grow.
Of course, winning a race or two in the Nationwide Series wouldn’t hurt.