Patrick finishing IndyCar run with eye on NASCAR
Danica Patrick is ready for one last hurrah in IndyCars before she turns her attention entirely to her blossoming stock car career.
The IndyCar icon has raced a partial Nationwide schedule the past two seasons during her much-publicized transition to NASCAR. Her final open-wheel race is the IndyCar World Championships on Oct. 16 in Las Vegas, and then it's on to her full-time ride with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports.
''I'm ready for change,'' Patrick said Friday at Kansas Speedway, where she was preparing for Saturday's Nationwide Series race.
''There will be things and people I miss about IndyCar, especially on frustrating weekends,'' she said. ''I'll think, 'Well, I came here in IndyCar and it was so much easier.' But I'm excited about the change and I'm not afraid of the change.''
Patrick shot to stardom when she led the Indianapolis 500 in 2005, and then proved its was no fluke when she won in Japan in 2008. But success has often been fleeting for Patrick, who is 10th in the IndyCar points standings and hasn't finished better than fifth all season.
Part of her struggles are tied to the fact that she hasn't always had the best equipment. That's hardly the case with JR Motorsports, which runs engines from high-powered Hendrick Motorsports.
After running 13 times on the Nationwide Series with middling success last year, Patrick has showed a spark this season. She qualified fourth for the season-opening race at Dayton, finished a career-best fourth at Las Vegas and notched back-to-back top-10 runs at Chicago and Daytona.
She ran 18th in her last Nationwide start at Richmond.
''She has what it takes to do it, and I think she's gotten better every week,'' Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said. ''You watch her unload at Richmond to where she was in the race and ran a lot faster, better and more consistent - I think next year, once she starts racing, you'll see a big progression from the beginning to the end of the season.''
Patrick said she isn't sure what her schedule will look like next year.
Her priority is to run the 30-plus dates on the Nationwide schedule, but she also announced in August that she plans to run a partial Sprint Cup schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing. The intention is that she'll eventually run a full Cup slate, perhaps starting in 2013.
''There's no schedule out, so I can't make a decision,'' Patrick said. ''I'm going to try to work on companion weekends or mayabe a standalone weekend will be easier for me to not confuse things. From what I hear, 34, 33, 32 weekends in Nationwide, when's that going to open up? I don't know.''