Danica Patrick has a chance at a championship now

The IRL announced Tuesday that there will now be two championships within the overall IZOD IndyCar Series Championship. The schedule consists of nine road and street courses and eight ovals, and because the split is fairly even, there will be a championship for the squiggly tracks and one for the circular ones.

The format is the same as it is for the overall championship, as the points accrued on the tracks will count for both the overall title and a sub-title. So it is feasible that a driver could win the overall title and both sub-titles. Or a driver could win both sub-titles and not the overall championship. (Starting in late May, fans will be able to vote for the names of the two sub-titles, as each will be named after a former driver)

That would be a little bizarre, but the season finale at Homestead is excluded from the oval championship so that the overall championship takes center stage. Therefore a driver could win the road title and oval title by a combined five points, but then finish 25 points behind his closest competitor at Homestead to lose the overall championship.

Given her lack of success on the series' road and street courses, the oval championship is Danica Patrick's best chance to win some hardware during her time in the IndyCar Series. Conspiracy theorists will claim that the sub-titles were created with Danica in mind, because as the series' biggest marketing phenomenon, the series looks more legitimate when its star driver has more hardware.

However, if you really believe that, it's a bit of a catch-22 for the IndyCar Series. Given Danica's recent foray into stock cars, theoretically, more success in the IndyCar Series increases the odds that she moves to NASCAR full time. And while it may be annoying that Patrick seemingly gets more coverage than the rest of the IndyCar Series field combined, that's publicity that the IRL loses if Patrick makes a permanent switch. Given that the IndyCar Series is already fighting for attention with Patrick as one of its drivers, that's not a good situation.