News & Media

Earnhardt: Danica to give JRM, NASCAR a boost

August 25, 2011, Joe Menzer,

Envisions the possibility of other women running more frequently, competitively

Kelley Earnhardt, co-owner and general manager of JR Motorsports, said Thursday that Danica Patrick's full-time entry into the Nationwide Series beginning next season should have a far-reaching and lasting positive impact on both her company and the sport of stock-car racing as a whole.

"Obviously we're very excited to put this behind us. It's been several months of a lot of speculation and wondering about what Danica was going to do. [Thursday's] announcement can put that to rest. We're excited to have her for a full season in 2012,"

Earnhardt said in a conference call Thursday afternoon, a couple of hours after Patrick had made her announcement that she'll not only drive full-time for JR Motorsports in Nationwide but also that she'll drive in eight to 10 Sprint Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Patrick is in the midst of a second part-time season driving the No. 7 Chevrolet for Earnhardt's organization at the Nationwide level. In seven starts this season, she has posted three top-10 finishes that includes a career-best fourth at Las Vegas.

"The last two years have been a good experience with her. I think she's shown that he has what it takes to race these cars," Earnhardt said. "On her learning curve, she's adjusted very quickly. So we're very excited to have her compete week in and week out in the Nationwide Series and in NASCAR. We're really just excited to have her come into our sport -- for the future of our sport and for our fans."

Earnhardt said there never really was a chance of JR Motorsports fielding a Cup car for Patrick.

"We discussed whether or not that would make sense for everyone involved. And quite frankly, JR Motorsports isn't ready to bite that bullet," she said. "We have partners under the JR Motorsports umbrella -- like Stewart-Haas Racing -- that were interested in adding cars to their fold on the Sprint Cup side. So I think it worked out best for everybody."

Earnhardt also said she understands Patrick's desire to perhaps race in the Indianapolis 500 next year, but made it clear that she expects Patrick's top priority -- even during the month of May -- to be her Nationwide team.

"We definitely left it open for her to consider, running in the Indy 500," Earnhardt said. "That's what she's done all her [professional life] -- run in the IndyCars. And her desire to do something in that realm makes perfect sense to us. Obviously we would not want it to interfere with any of the Nationwide commitments that she has in terms of practices and races, so we would work hard to avoid that because we want to run for the championship next year."

Finally, Earnhardt said she is pleased to be part of what she envisions as a movement to increase the possibilities of women running more frequently and more competitively in NASCAR's many programs and series. She also said she expects Patrick to help attract more female fans and sponsors who are perhaps more aligned with the female audience -- all of which, in turn, should help JR Motorsports thrive as well.

"I definitely think this will be a positive on all of those fronts. There are young girls that are in motorsports competing at the local levels and regional levels all over the United States," said Earnhardt, who has two young daughters of her own. "I think what this does, having Danica compete full-time in the Nationwide Series and part-time in the Cup Series, is it gives those young women hope that it can be done. We haven't had a lot of success with women in our sport throughout the years, but this continues to give them hope that they can reach for their dreams and chase their dreams, and that it's not necessarily going to be a wasted effort. It gives them someone to look up to who has managed her brand and done well. It gives them someone they can model themselves after."