Danica Patrick confirmed a 10-race schedule NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for the 2012 season with Stewart-Haas Racing on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. Patrick is taking part in this weekend's Nationwide Series event, where she will drive in a car and helmet paying tribute to the late Dan Wheldon (LEFT).
Patrick, a seven-year veteran of the IndyCar Series, where she became the first female to win a race, is making the full transition to stock cars in 2012, competing in the entire NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports and a 10-race Sprint Cup schedule for SHR.
Patrick's Sprint Cup debut will come in the 54th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. Her remaining Sprint Cup races are as follows:
- May 12: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway
- Aug. 25: Bristol Motor Speedway
- Sept. 2: Atlanta Motor Speedway
- Sept. 16: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
- Sept. 30: Dover International Speedway
- Nov. 4: Texas Motor Speedway
- Nov. 11: Phoenix International Raceway
Patrick's other two Sprint Cup races for next year remain to be determined, with the plan being to assess her development in Cup and Nationwide as the season progresses and then choose the remaining venues based on need and competitive reasoning.
“Our goal with Danica's schedule is to try and maximize her 10 races with us so that she's as prepared as she can possibly be for a full-time Sprint Cup schedule in 2013,” said team co-owner Tony Stewart. “In the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, she'll handle short tracks, intermediate 1.5-mile ovals, and some unique tracks like Darlington and Phoenix. The point is to expose her to as many challenges as possible so that she'll know what to expect in 2013.
“Between our schedule and her full Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports, Danica will gain a lot of experience quickly. At the same time, we'll monitor her progress, and if we feel there's a particular venue or style of track where more seat time would be beneficial, we have two races where we can call an audible and enter her in those events.”
"We're keeping two dates open to see how the start of the season goes and make sure we can call an audible if we need to. If we see a place or Danica feels like there's a track that she struggled at, we have that flexibility to plug them in. But we will run 10 full races with her."
Patrick said she and Stewart had deliberately chosen tracks that were most outside her experience level.
"The most weighted factor [in determining the schedule] was places that might be a challenge – places that had unique characteristics, that would be good to get some extra laps at," Patrick said. "At a place like Darlington, for example, where I'll run the Cup and Nationwide cars together, one absolutely will help the other. Tony [Eury Jr., her Nationwide crew chief] has said sometimes the Cup guys like to do the Nationwide races to get more laps so they get more comfortable on the track.
"Sometimes guys like to do races at places they're good at, so they can just have fun – like [Dale Earnhardt] Junior at Bristol, or something. But for me, it's going to be about laps."