SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA // IndyCar driver Danica Patrick is officially headed to NASCAR.
After months of skirting speculation, Patrick announced on Thursday that she's leaving IndyCar in 2012 to run a full second-tier Nationwide schedule with JR Motorsports and up to 10 Sprint Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing.
One of American auto racing's most marketable stars, Patrick says she hasn't mapped out which races she'll run in Sprint Cup and didn't rule out a return to open-wheel racing for the 2012 Indianapolis 500.
Patrick has driven 20 Nationwide races for JR Motorsports over the last two seasons and has five more scheduled this year.
She finished third in the 2009 Indy 500, the highest finish for a woman at the famous race. She has one career victory in IndyCar, in Japan in 2008, and currently is ranked 12th in the series standings. In 110 career starts, she has three poles and 20 top-fives.
Although she's winless in the Nationwide series, she flirted with victory last month at Daytona, leading 13 laps before the last-lap chaos dropped her to 10th.
"She's way ahead of the curve," Dale Earnhardt Jr, one of the owners of JR Motorsports, has said. "We've had the opportunity to put several drivers in that car, and her performance is right on par with all those drivers.
"We started out struggling and she had a steep, steep climb to go and she's really come a long way. I'm excited about what the potential is with her going forward."