The talk this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway was all about IRL-star Danica Patrick, who is arguably the most successful woman in auto racing. She is by far the most business-savvy/successful women, and most likely will be known as the best behind the wheel.
Rumors have it that she is running part-time in the Nationwide series next year while running a full-time schedule in the Indy Racing League (IRL). JR Motorsports has been reportedly talking with her, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks to be her owner. The thing is, will she be successful? She will be a GREAT marketing tool. That?s the understatement of the day. The amount of money she brings in the IRL for her GoDaddy.com commercials, etc. is outstanding. With a women in the NASCAR garage, the amount of revenue is something a team owner in the struggling economy will be looking for.
She made her debut in the IRL in 2005, and that same year in the Indianapolis 500, she led 19 laps late in the race, and ultimately finished fourth, the best finish by a woman. Although she hasn?t had the success that the media expected of her, she finally nabbed her first win in 2008 at Motegi, Japan.
Will she be successful? Let?s compare her with Juan Pablo Montoya, the most successful switch-over driver thus far. She has one win in 81 starts, a constant contender in the top-10 in the IRL points, and three poles. Montoya won the Indy 500 in his first start in 2000, has seven Formula 1 wins, a CART championship, and in his third year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, he has one win (the road course in Sonoma) and made the Chase for the first time this year. If Danica decides to go for it, she may take a couple of years to be a legit contender, like Montoya. Let?s just hope she fares better than fellow drivers Sam Hornish Jr, Dario Franchitti, A.J. Allmendinger, and Scott Speed, who have also made the switch, with little success.
Nevertheless, I, for one, would enjoy seeing her face in the NASCAR garage on race day, successful or not.