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Danica Patrick to drive full-time for NASCAR in 2012

August 25, 2011 | 11:17 am

Danica Patrick, one of racing’s most popular drivers, said Thursday that she will leave IndyCar to drive full time for NASCAR in 2012.

"Very exciting. I'm just excited to finally say it," Patrick said.

Patrick, 29, will race a full schedule on NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide circuit for JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., and will race in about 10 Sprint Cup races for Tony Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing.

Patrick became a household name in 2005 when she was the first woman to lead in laps at the Indianapolis 500, before finishing fourth. She also was the first woman to win a race on the IndyCar circuit, winning in Japan in 2008.

Patrick has been a magnet for advertisers and sponsors ever since and is expected to draw plenty of attention to NASCAR.

But her results have been mixed on the track.

This season she is 12th in the IndyCar driver points standings. Patrick has also driven part-time on the Nationwide series and has one top five finish in seven races.

Patrick hasn’t decided which Sprint Cup races she'll drive in next year, and she didn’t rule out driving in the Indy 500 next season.

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-- Barry Stavro

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