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Danica in NASCAR? Oh, that's rich
Danica Patrick doesn't want to go to NASCAR. Too many races, too much to learn, too many demands, etc. But in the end, it's all about the money. And Patrick knows all too well that NASCAR has most of it.
"Obviously, one of the big draws with NASCAR is money," Patrick said. "You can make a lot of money. It's a much bigger schedule, but again, they make that much more money. At some point in time, you have to think about that."
Patrick isn't exactly living in squalor as the IRL's top draw. Some people will attend tonight's Bombardier Learjet 500 at Texas Motor Speedway just to see her race. This was written by Terry Blount and appeared in The Dallas Morning News
She isn't the best driver, at least not yet, but she probably is banking more cash than anyone else in the series.
Patrick sees the big picture. She knows a racecar driver's window for financial gain is limited. That's why she does all she can to market herself.
Patrick was asked Friday if other IRL drivers tease her about her commercials and photo shoots that sometimes play up her sexuality.
"I think the guys understand and recognize that I'm just a business trying to get the company bigger and more successful," she said. "Those things make me more valuable, and in turn, bring more attention to the series and the drivers. It all feeds off each other."
Patrick, 24, has raced open-wheel cars her entire career. She started in go-karts, raced formula cars in England and competed in the Atlantic Series (Champ Car's feeder league) before joining the IRL last year.
Despite the lack of stock car experience, half a dozen NASCAR teams would hire her today if she opted to head in that direction.
Patrick + Cup car = $$$$.
Patrick's biggest problem with Nextel Cup is the grueling 38-race schedule. The series has three open weekends from February until the end of November.
The IRL has only 14 events, but the last 11 fall between the end of May and early September. The TMS race is the third consecutive weekend of racing for the teams.
"I feel like a wimp complaining about racing every weekend, but our crews are working every single day," Patrick said. "We don't have multiple crews and trucks and buses like NASCAR. We don't have private planes and other luxuries they have."
Patrick's point is racing more events on consecutive weekends is difficult when IRL teams don't have the manpower or resources that NASCAR teams have.
"We just don't have as much stuff," she said. "If we are going to run like this, or expand the schedule and have more races, they need to make our lives easier."
And if that doesn't happen?
"It could distract us and make us go to NASCAR, because we don't make the money here," Patrick said. "If we're going all over the place, it's like, 'What are we doing this for?' "
In other words, if you have to live with the demands of a NASCAR driver, why not go to NASCAR and make the big bucks.
In some ways, the IRL is a victim of its own success. Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr., Patrick and Marco Andretti are the most recognizable American drivers not in NASCAR.
But Hornish and Patrick can't escape the NASCAR questions.
"The good news is nobody asks me anymore when I'm going to win the Indy 500," Hornish said. "But now everyone asks me when I'm going to NASCAR."
Patrick doesn't mind the question. It's an option she has to consider.
"I definitely enjoy racing here," she said. "But you have to do the best for yourself and your career. If you're really popular, you can make a lot of money. That's the main draw of NASCAR." This was written by Terry Blount and appeared in The Dallas Morning News