Thu Aug 25 12:11pm EDT
The worst-kept secret in motorsports is a secret no more. Danica Patrick, arguably the country's best-known racer, will jump from IndyCar to NASCAR full-time beginning with the 2012 season.
Wearing the same leather jumpsuit and high heels from her commercials, Patrick, alongside GoDaddy.com CEO Bob Parsons, made the announcement in Phoenix at a flash-and-dazzle event that was more GoDaddy rally than press conference.
[Related: See more photos of Danica Patrick]
"For breaking news that will shock the world, we are excited to finally announce that GoDaddy will be taking me full-time into NASCAR next year," Patrick said. "Very exciting. I'm just excited to finally say it."
Patrick has some heavyweight backing in the world of NASCAR. Her Nationwide car will be owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports, and her Sprint Cup car will be owned by Tony Stewart's Stewart-Haas Racing. GoDaddy will be her sponsor for both series.
Patrick has spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons switching back and forth between the IndyCar series and NASCAR's Nationwide series, running full-time in IndyCar and whenever her schedule permits in NASCAR.
Interestingly, Patrick did not confirm earlier reports that she would be running the Daytona 500 and moving to the Sprint Cup level full time, though it appears Daytona would be the most logical place to begin her Sprint Cup career.
Daytona would provide the perfect entry point into the Sprint Cup series; it's the sport's marquee event, and it's not unthinkable that she could have a standout debut there. The current style of racing at Daytona allows drivers to partner up for more speed, and if Patrick got aligned with new team owner Tony Stewart, she'd be in fine shape for a strong finish.
There's precedent, after all. When's the last time a first-time driver won Daytona? Oh, only about seven months ago, when Trevor Bayne came from out of nowhere to win.
Still up in the air? The Indianapolis 500, in 2012 and going forward. Patrick had high praise for the race, but didn't commit to running it. In theory, she could race the Charlotte Nationwide race the night before Indy, but probably couldn't logistically run both Indy and the Sprint Cup's Coca-Cola 600 that evening.
Through 20 races in the Nationwide Series, Patrick has amassed one top-5 and three top-10 finishes, with all of those coming in this year's seven races.
There are many details remaining, such as the actual races she'll run, but for now, the major news is out there. Danica Patrick is coming to NASCAR, and one way or another, the sport won't ever be the same.
The full press conference is below:
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