August 2, 2011
Danica ready to race NASCAR full time
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - It appears that the Danica Patrick story will have a happy ending for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports and Tony Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing.
Not so happy, of course, for Andretti Autosport.
A major U.S. news service was reporting Tuesday that Patrick will quit the IZOD IndyCar Series for all but the Indianapolis 500 in 2012.
The Associated Press story by its senior motorsports writer, Jenna Fryer, goes on to say that Patrick will race a full NASCAR Nationwide schedule next season with JRM in the No. 7 Chevrolet and a part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule with Stewart-Haas in a yet-to-be-numbered Chevrolet.
It is expected both the cars will carry Patrick’s GoDaddy.com sponsorship.
Although the deal is said to be complete, no signatures are yet in place and neither JRM public relations representative Mike Davis or Patrick’s management team at International Management Group were commenting on the deal.
The 29-year-old Patrick has played cat and mouse with the media since the start of the current racing season over whether she would move to NASCAR full time in 2012.
But after impressive showings in the JRM car this season — she finished fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and led laps late at Daytona International Speedway last month — most commentators were convinced she would move to the more financially lucrative stock car series.
“As I’ve said from the beginning of the year, are complicated and they take time,” she said at Daytona. “Whether I’m coming here or not has yet to be signed, sealed and delivered. And I might not be. Only time will tell.”
In a fortunate bit of coincidence for Patrick’s negotiating team at IMG, Forbes — the corporate business bible — released its list of the world’s highest paid female athletes also on Tuesday.
It shows Patrick as No. 3 on the list with a salary estimated at $12 million US a season.
She is only behind tennis players Maria Sharapova — $25 million — and Caroline Wozniacki at $12.5 million.
According to Forbes.com the figures are from the previous 12 months ending on July 1 and include the athletes’ salaries, prize money, appearance fees and endorsements.
Red Bull Racing is expected to sign veteran Formula One driver Mark Webber to a new contract before the end of the three-week summer break in the schedule. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said he hopes it will keep Webber with the team to the end of his F-1 career ... Speaking of contracts Clint Bowyer is said to be close to a new deal with Richard Childress Racing in the No. 33 Chevrolet ... Just wondering how Alex Tagliani feels after his IZOD IndyCar team, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, tested former IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud in the No. 77 Dallara at Mid Ohio, the site of this week’s Mid Ohio Honda Indy? The team issued a release saying the test was for a possible ride next year. Tagliani as a personal contract with sponsor Bowers&Wilkins for the next two-plus seasons. It is expected that he will be heavily courted by top teams to join their outfits in the open wheel series in 2012 ... Could it be that Tony Stewart — who famously once said of Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard: “You can have your father buy a ride and write a big check, but you can’t buy talent.” — was motivated in his obvious disdain for the younger Menard because of a little tiff he once had with the elder Menard. Menard launched a breach of contract suit against Stewart in 1998 after he left the IndyCar Team Menard to pursue a career in NASCAR ... The live attendance may have been down at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400, but it was a hit on television. ESPN’s live telecast earned a 4.6 household coverage rating, averaging 6,377,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The rating rose from a 4.2 for last year’s event.
RANT OF THE WEEK
Over the course of the next 24 days before Formula One returns to the track at Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, maybe it should consider fixing some of the glaring issues it faces.
The first one of those issues is how to maintain fan interest in the world championship with super driver Sebastian Vettel out front by a virtual insurmountable 85 points over Mark Webber and 88 points over Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel would have to retire from just about all of the remaining eight grands prix to lose his current lead.
Another point of contention in the world of F-1 is the 2012 racing calendar. It has already been leaked that the FIA would like to move the inaugural Austin, Tex., U.S. Grand Prix to the penultimate date just before Brazil.
That presents a problem for teams who would have to cross the Atlantic Ocean twice — once for Montreal in June and again in October for the USGP.
And finally F-1 uber boss Bernie Ecclestone has yet to come to grips with the fact that holding a race in the fragile Middle Eastern desert kingdom of Abu Dhabi is a non-starter until political unrest comes to an end in the region.
JOHNSON TO TEAM UP WITH FELLOWS AT THE GLEN
Canada’s Ron Fellows will have five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson as a teammate at the ZIPPO 200 NASCAR Nationwide race at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 13.
Johnson will be in the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet while Fellows will race the No. 5 JRM Chevrolet.
It will be a rare NNS event for Johnson, who last raced for JRM in four races back in 2008.
In 91 career Nationwide races, he has one win, eight top-fives and 23 top-10s.
The No. 7 Chevrolet Johnson will drive at the Glen will be the same one that Fellows drove to a second-place finish at Road America in June.
The deal will be backed by a new video game that Johnson is promoting.
Anything With An Engine will allow game players to race unconventional vehicles created from the most unlikely of everyday objects such as shopping carts and dumpsters, armed with powerful side rams and front and rear custom weapons.
“This is a unique opportunity to not only run in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports, but a fun way to remind fans that our new video game will be released in a few months,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of fun creating this game, and I think the fans will appreciate the imagination we put into it.
“Being able to race a JR Motorsports car and promote my game at the same time is a great opportunity. Tony Eury Jr. and Ron Fellows nearly won at Road America in June, so maybe we can do one better.”
FORD COMES UP BIG FOR EDWARDS
The battle to keep the services of Carl Edwards at Roush Fenway Racing next season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series got some serious backing from auto-making giant Ford this past weekend.
Ford Racing spokesman Kevin Kennedy told media members at the Brickyard 400 that the blue oval folks have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Edwards.
“We have never done before for another driver,” Kennedy said. “It was important enough for us that we were trying to make it unprecedented.”
Details of just what Ford might add to the RFR pot to keep Edwards in house were not released. Ford certainly, however would pull out all he stops to keep him from going to Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota.
“It’s something that will help him in terms of continuing to promote Ford products,’’ Kennedy said.