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Drivers Put Out Welcome-Danica Mat

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 6 2009
Some drivers are wishing Danica Patrick well in NASCAR. (Indy Racing League photo by Ron McQueeney)

Some drivers are wishing Danica Patrick well in NASCAR. (Indy Racing League photo by Ron McQueeney)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Fort Worth, Texas – If you are already weary of keeping up with the latest Danica Patrick-to-NASCAR buzz, imagine how an established Sprint Cup Series star feels.

For instance, Carl Edwards, who didn’t sugar-coat his opinion about Danica’s reported contract negotiations with JR Motorsports, the Nationwide Series team owned by Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Here’s the deal,” Edwards said Friday in front of a gaggle of media at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Dickies 500. “It’s simple. If Danica Patrick could come over here to NASCAR and run well, it would be great for the sport and it would be great for the sponsors that she brings over here. The fans would love it, so I think the better she does over here – barring running in front of me – the better it is for the sport. And that’s good.”

That led to the logical follow-up question, as in, what if Danica doesn’t do well?

“Then she doesn’t do well,” said Cousin Carl, a three-time Cup winner on TMS’ 1.5-mile quadoval. “There are a lot of people who have come over here and not been able to do well, and I think Juan Montoya is the best example, to me, of a guy who has huge talent, who came over and had a mass of success in other things, and was able to do it. He’s as good as any of us over here now, so if she doesn’t do it, I don’t think it would be a huge surprise. But like I said, for all those reasons I hope she does well.”

Completing his third full Cup season, Montoya emerged as a bonafide title contender following a stellar open-wheel career highlighted by the 1999 CART championship and victory in the IRL’s 2000 Indianapolis 500. Montoya accomplished both of those milestones as a rookie. Montoya jumped to NASCAR in 2006 after being fired from his Formula One ride with Team McLaren.

Montoya is fourth among the 12 drivers who started the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup. But for all his talent, and the improvements made by Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Montoya’s only Cup victory to-date has been on the road-course at Infineon Raceway in 2007. Montoya, driving the No. 42 Target Dream in Color Chevrolet here, has yet to win on an oval after 106 career Cup starts.

Patrick reportedly plans to run the entire 17-race IndyCar Series schedule in 2010 for Andretti Green Racing, with whom she recently signed a three-year contract extension through 2012. How Danica handles selected Nationwide and ARCA disciplines figures to be scrutinized to the max.

“I’ve never driven an Indy-car, so I don’t know,” said Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion fielded by Roush Fenway Racing. “But it is a fact that these cars are different than almost anything else out there, I guess, so the more time you can spend in these heavier (stock cars), the better. I know for me personally, what I came from were lighter-weight dirt cars, USAC Silver Crown stuff, and these cars were quite different, so that will take a little while. But I don’t think running another car at the same time hurts you.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 6 2009
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