News & Media


JRM plans could have guest appearances by Danica

July 27, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com



JRM plans could have guest appearances by Danica

INDIANAPOLIS -- With a self-imposed September deadline in place, JR Motorsports executives hope to finalize their plans for the 2013 Nationwide Series season shortly.

In addition to bringing back Cole Whitt for a second full season, those plans may include having Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. return for limited engagements, according to co-owner and vice president Kelley Earnhardt-Miller.

"We'd love to see Danica run some races for us. She's indicated that she wants to run in the Nationwide Series. Obviously, Dale Jr. will run again for us. So the No. 7 car could be a mix of what we've called in the past an 'all-star car.'"

--KELLEY EARNHARDT-MILLER

Patrick expects to move up to the Cup level full time with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2013, but hasn't ruled out the possibility of continuing her relationship with JR Motorsports.

"We'd love to see Danica run some races for us," Earnhardt-Miller said Thursday. "She's indicated that she wants to run in the Nationwide Series. Obviously, Dale Jr. will run again for us. So the No. 7 car could be a mix of what we've called in the past an 'all-star car.' "

Every decision seems to come down to finances, and JR Motorsports is proving to be no exception. Earnhardt-Miller said if a sponsor wants to step up and fund a second full-season program, alternatives will suddenly become available.

"If we get a driver and a sponsor for the whole year for the No. 7, then we'll run a third car like we've done in the past," Earnhardt-Miller said. "We're really just waiting to see how it unfolds. We've got lots of meetings, lots of lines in the water. We've kind of got an internal goal of Sept. 1 to have everything buttoned up."

Earnhardt-Miller said the September deadline gives the team enough lead time to plan for the upcoming season, particularly since the introduction of a new Camaro body style for 2013 will require more work in the shop during the offseason.

Between now and then, the team will sit down with its current sponsors and determine how to proceed.

"We've asked our partners, 'We're just looking for a playbook. Where do you want to be? What's it look like?' Earnhardt-Miller said. "We don't have to have contracts buttoned up by Sept. 1, but we just want to have a really good idea about the funding and where we'll be at -- so we can decide if it's going to be two cars, 2 ½ or 1 1/2 or whatever it might be."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is currently under contract to run four races in 2013 for the team he co-owns. That could change, but only if there's a significant deal in place, his sister said.

"Obviously, if a sponsor comes along and wants to make a big investment on the No. 88 or the No. 7 -- and it makes sense for us -- we can tie Dale into that," Earnhardt-Miller said. "But it's really hard these days to do three-, four- or five-race deals and add Dale Jr. into that mix. It really takes away from his other sponsors and commitments on the Cup car. It waters down the other relationships we have with what we're doing.

"We're looking for the heavy hitters who want to invest in the sport and invest in our team, and then we can make Dale Jr. a part of that investment."

Overall, Earnhardt-Miller admitted the cars weren't as competitive as they had hoped in the first half of the year, but the team has begun to make gains.

With the exception of Daytona, where both Whitt and Patrick were caught up in crashes, the results are slowly but surely starting to come. Whitt has three top-10 finishes in his past six races, including a ninth at Chicago. And Patrick's put together a nice run of top-15 finishes.

"We worked really hard on our cars," Earnhardt-Miller said. "We've been in the wind tunnel a lot more, working on the [aerodynamics]. These days, it's just the slightest things that are going to make your car a little bit better. You're looking for little things to work and tweak on."

"Our cars have been a lot more competitive. They've been faster in practice and qualifying. For Danica and Cole, with their lack of experience, I think the hurdle has been more of the race itself."

And her view of how Patrick has handled the transition to a full-time stock car driver?

"Overall, I think she's doing a good job for us," Earnhardt-Miller said. "With her, it's not really leading us anywhere; it's more like leading her somewhere -- to compete in the Cup Series next year. We just want to continue to be consistent with the No. 7 car so we can look to put somebody in that next year to replace her."