Danica Patrick will make her full-time Sprint Cup Series debut at the Daytona 500 in February after making 10 starts in 2012 for Stewart-Haas Racing. The former IndyCar Series star will make history just by being there - as the first woman to race full-time in Cup Series - but will she become one of the hits when it comes to switching series, or one of the misses? Will her tenure in NASCAR's top series be as successful as her boss, Tony Stewart, who made the leap from IRL champ to three-time Cup Series champ? Or will she end up returning to her original series, the way IndyCar champ Dario Franchitti did? Here are a few more top racers who have given other series a shot - some were successful, while others flopped.
Legends Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt made series switching look easy back in the 1960s and 1970s. Andretti, one of the most successful and diverse drivers in motorsports history, is the only driver to win the Daytona 500 (1967), the Indianapolis 500 (1969) and the Formula One World Championship (1978). Additional achievements on his resume: four IndyCar titles, a win in the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 1974 USAC Dirt Track championship, an International Race of Champions (IROC) title and numerous sprint car wins. Foyt, who, with Andretti, was named Co-Driver of the Century by the Associated Press, is the only driver to win the Indy 500 (four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Foyt's career has seen success in open-wheel cars, stock cars and sports cars, winning more than a dozen titles and hundreds of races.
True to the Andretti name and pedigree, John Andretti, Mario's nephew, has won races in CART, IMSA, GRAND-AM and NASCAR, and also competed in NHRA drag racing. While his win numbers haven't reached those of his famous uncle, he too has a NASCAR win at Daytona International Speedway in the July event in 1997.
Two more former Indy 500 winners who also made selected appearances in NASCAR and won were Parnelli Jones and Mark Donohue. Jones, who won the Indy 500 in 1963, won four NASCAR races in just 34 starts and also had wins in midgets and sprint cars. Donohue, winner of the 1972 Indy 500, gave Roger Penske his first NASCAR victory in 1973 and was the first IROC champ in 1973-74.
The late Tim Richmond, best known as a 13-time NASCAR Cup Series winner in his short career (1980 to 1987), was actually the 1980 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. One of the first drivers to make the full-time switch from IndyCar to NASCAR, Richmond competed in sprint cars and supermodifieds before trying his hand at the Indy 500; late Pocono Raceway owner Joseph Mattioli later convinced Richmond to turn his efforts to stock cars.
One of the worst series switches came at the expense of a great driver. One of the greatest open-wheel racers of all-time, 20-time World of Outlaw sprint car champion Steve Kinser, took his shot at NASCAR stardom, signing on with Kenny Bernstein's Quaker State team in 1995. While many thought that his talent would translate to NASCAR, much as Jeff Gordon's had around that time, Kinser's venture was short-lived, lasting only five races with a best finish of 27th. He also competed in one Indy 500 (1997 - finished 12th) and won an IROC race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1994.
Some of today's top drivers have been less than successful when venturing into uncharted territory. Kurt Busch made his NHRA Pro Stock debut at the Gatornationals in 2011; he qualified for the event, but suffered a first-round loss to Erica Enders. Sam Hornish Jr., three-time IndyCar champ, made the switch to NASCAR in 2006; in six years of racing in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series for Penske Racing, he has just one Nationwide Series win to his credit. IndyCar Series team owner Sarah Fisher, in her days as a driver, left the series for NASCAR for the 2005 season, racing in the NASCAR West Series (now K&N Pro Series West); she earned the Rookie of the Year award and finished 12th in points before coming back to IndyCar due to sponsorship woes.
2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year A.J. Allmendinger moved to NASCAR's Cup Series in 2007 with Red Bull Racing, a ride he lost midway through the 2008 season based on poor performances. Bad luck has followed "The Dinger" through NASCAR, including an arrest for drunk driving in 2009 and a suspension by NASCAR in 2012 for failing its drug policy; he was later reinstated after completing the Road to Recovery program. Allmendinger is winless in NASCAR, and currently is not signed for 2013.
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers the sport at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.