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Friday, October 16, 2009

Roush: Danica 'will not be successful' with part-time schedule

Danica Patrick wants to have her cake and eat it too, and some NASCAR team owners are not big fans of that strategy.

It has been reported that Danica has already signed a three-year deal to stay at her current Indycar team, and the rumor is Danica will drive for either JR Motorsports or Michael Waltrip Racing car in some Nationwide events in 2010. Basically, she would be moonlighting in NASCAR, not setting down a new set of roots. It would be a tryout, to see whether she wants to continue down that road.

Some NASCAR team owners -- particularly Jack Roush, who is among the team owners who have had discussions with Patrick about next year -- are not so sure the divided IRL/NASCAR effort will be a successful route to NASCAR success.

In fact, he said he would not want her to drive for him in Nationwide if she remains full-time in Indycar.

"She'd like to drive her IRL car and on off weekends come drive a Nationwide or Sprint (Cup) car, and that's not going to work," Roush said this week. "If she wants to do this, she'd need to come in with all her heart and soul and commitment and make that determination of what was possible. I'm not sure it's possible. It's potentially possible, but I'm stopped short of saying it's likely that she can do this, based on what she's done.”

He went on to describe that basic discussions were started between Patrick and Roush Racing, but she never brought them to a conclusion.

“She's talked to us a couple of different times, and there was no timetable on getting back to us,” Roush said. “I told her if she wanted to do this, she should do a Nationwide or truck program first with great enthusiasm and then she should reconsider and take stock of things and decide what the timetable should be for a full Cup program.

If the moonlighting going to be Danica’s approach, Roush says she is doomed to fail: “As long as she's got an interest in running the IRL with priority in her schedule, she doesn't have the time for a concerted effort. And without that, she will not be successful."

Roush may be right, as most drivers need total immersion in NASCAR to see success. Even a driver as good as 2-time Cup champ couldn’t achieve much success in the minor leagues when he was just visiting NASCAR part-time and doing IRL full-time in the late 1990s.

But this isn’t about what’s been proven to work in the past, it’s about what’s right for Danica. She knows she is good in the IRL, and can run competitively there. She doesn’t know whether she can succeed in NASCAR.

So while it may be frustrating for potential team owners in NASCAR, she is going to concentrate on the IRL in the short term, and just dabble in NASCAR until she’s sure the switch to full-time will be successful. She doesn’t want to have to come running back, like Dario Franchitti and other open-wheelers have done in recent years.

Also, despite just having 1 win, she’s such a big star that the IRL will do everything in its power to hold onto her for as long as they can.
Whether Roush or others like it or not, driving in NASCAR “on off weekends” is the best they’re going to get from Danica for a couple years.

P.S. ... While I'm on the Danica topic, I have to say the question posed to Rick Hendrick at a press conference this week, "How important is Danica Patrick to the future of NASCAR?", is one of the most ridiculous questions ever asked by a reporter ... considering she has never even raced one time in NASCAR, how important could she really be?. The look on Hendrick's face was priceless when he heard the question, kind of like "Are you serious?"

Roush leaving Truck series is a bad sign
In another blow to the already struggling Truck series, Jack Roush will move Colin Braun up to Nationwide next year to drive the #16 Ford Mustang full-time, leaving the team without a Truck series driver. Roush will not compete in the Truck series next year at all, at least under his current plans.

He has been a mainstay in the series for most of its existence, and has fielded strong trucks in the past for future Cup talents Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards, among many others. If Jack Roush no longer feels the Truck series is worth the cost because of lack of manufacturer support, that is a bad sign for the series as a whole.


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