Danica Patrick might be the driver who has received the most media attention for crossing over from open-wheel to stock-car racing (or vice versa), but she certainly is not the first or most accomplished. As the most famous woman in motorsports continues to learn her way in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series -- which began with her capturing the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500 and then finishing eighth in the race -- here are some drivers who have found success both with fenders and without, making left and right turns.
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Patrick was perhaps the most heralded NASCAR rookie in history when she made the switch from IndyCar. She had one IndyCar win to her credit at the time and first ran part-time in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2010 and 2011. She moved full-time into those ranks in 2012, finishing 10th in the Nationwide standings, the best finish for a female driver in series history. In 2013, she opened her Sprint Cup rookie run by capturing the pole for the Daytona 500, after which she became the first female to lead a lap in that race en route to her eighth-place run, which also represented the best-ever finish for a female driver in the Great American Race.
USA TODAY SportsDouglas Jones
Richmond (with trophy), one of the most colorful yet tragic figures in NASCAR history, made a highly successful transition into NASCAR after a beginning in the IndyCar ranks. Richmond was named the rookie of the race in the 1980 Indianapolis 500. He led a lap that day, but ran out of gas toward the end and finished ninth. Soon afterward Richmond moved to stock cars, competing in five races in NASCAR’s premier series, then known as the Winston Cup Series, in 1980. He ran full-time in the series the next six seasons and then for eight races in 1987, earning 13 wins in 185 starts and finishing third in the 1986 standings. He died in 1989 of complications from AIDS.
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This driver had little chance of being anything other than a racer. Growing up as the son of Aldo Andretti, twin brother of Mario Andretti, John Andretti had racing in his blood from birth. He competed in CART from 1987 through 1994, making 73 starts and earning one win. He finished eighth in the series standings in 1991 and 1992, respectively. Then he moved to NASCAR, where he would eventually compete for Petty Enterprises and win a pair of races in what is now the Sprint Cup Series.
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Rutherford was known for his prowess at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The driver won three Indianapolis 500s (1974, '76 and '80), two from the pole, and is credited with 27 career wins in open-wheel cars. He won the 1980 CART title and then decided to compete in some NASCAR events. He won in his first outing in a qualifying race at Daytona, an event that in 1963 counted as a series victory. He is a member of multiple halls of fame for his success in various racing series, but after his initial success in NASCAR he made 34 more starts in its premier series without registering another win and had only one other top-five finish.
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He is not the most successful crossover driver in racing history or the most celebrated. But Tony Stewart once called him one of the three most talented drivers he has ever raced. And there may not be a driver more versatile, or more willing to race on any surface, than Robby Gordon (here he is giving a thumb’s up during the Dakar Rally in January 2012). Among Gordon’s accomplishments: 5: Consecutive SCORE Off-Road championships 3: Baja 1000 wins 3: Champ Car Series wins 3: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins 2: Mickey Thompson Stadium Series championships 2: Dakar Rally stage wins (the first American to win a stage) 1: NASCAR Nationwide Series win
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Jones, born in 1933, was a versatile racer of the future Robby Gordon variety. He won races in sports cars, Indy cars, sprint cars, midget cars, off-road vehicles and stock cars. In the open-wheel ranks, he earned six career wins – including the 1963 Indianapolis 500 – and 12 pole positions. He began competing in stock cars in 1956, running a limited schedule off and on through 1970. He made 34 Cup starts, winning four times.
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Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya enjoyed limited success in his stint as a full-time NASCAR driver, winning only two road-course races in 253 Sprint Cup Series starts over eight seasons, and one Nationwide Series race, also on a road course, in 23 starts. But there is no denying his overall career accomplishments, the most impressive of which arguably have come in the type of open-wheel race cars he returned to full-time this year in the IndyCar Series. In 49 career starts on the CART and IndyCar circuits, he owns 11 wins – including the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. Montoya also owns seven wins in Formula One and is one of only two active drivers (Jacques Villenueve being the other) to have won both the Formula One race at Monaco and the Indy 500. He also won the 24 Hours of Daytona Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car race on his first attempt.
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In terms of championships, Smoke is the crossover king. (After all, how many drivers get to hang out with the President on the White House lawn?) He is the only driver to win season championships in both the IndyCar and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, having earned titles in NASCAR’s premier series in both the Chase and pre-Chase formats. In 2011 he became the first driver/owner to win the series championship since 1992. In all, he has 48 career Sprint Cup victories, 11 Nationwide wins, two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins and three IndyCar Series wins. He also has championships in USAC (four; including an unprecedented Sprint-Midget-Silver Crown sweep in 1995), IROC (in its final season) and earned two go-kart titles before he was 17.
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Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney
You’ve probably heard of one of them. And the other? Maybe not. So what is Gurney doing sharing a spot with Super Mario, you ask? They are the only two drivers to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR. Andretti is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and Formula One championship, and is the last American to win a Formula One race (in 1978). Gurney is recognized as the driver to begin the tradition of spraying podium sharers with champagne after a victory, and is also the first driver to race with a full-face helmet. Andretti has 109 career wins; Gurney won four times in Formula One, five times in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and seven times in USAC.
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In the NASCAR world, Richard Petty is The King. In American open-wheel racing, perhaps no man is more revered than Foyt. For the sake of this argument, it’s hard to top this Grand Slam of racing victories: • Daytona 500 • Indianapolis 500 (four times) • 24 Hours of Le Mans • 24 Hours of Daytona In 1967, Foyt became the first (and is still the only) driver to win Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same year. In terms of records, he stands as the greatest driver in the history of the Brickyard, and also owns the most USAC wins in history (138). He won seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races (including the 1972 Daytona 500) and owns 12 major driving championships in various categories.