It was only a matter of time, so seeing the Baltimore Sun wondering whether or not Danica Patrick would make the eventual jump to NASCAR isn't surprising.
But that doesn't make the move a good idea.
Patrick struck gold this past Saturday, picking up her first career IndyCar Series win at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. The win not only got the proverbial monkey off Patrick's shoulders, but it marked another bright spot for an already optimistic open-wheel season.
On the surface, Patrick moving to NASCAR looks like a smart move; her popularity can only help the Sprint Cup Series, and the money that would be available to her would be unmatched in the United States. And whereas her current sports sees the bright lights every Memorial Day weekend for the Indianapolis 500, that spotlight would be on her every weekend from Ferbuary until November in NASCAR.
But upon deeper examination, such a move might not be in her best interest. It sure wouldn't be in the IRL's best interest, seeing as how such open-wheel stars as Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr. and Tony Stewart have defected to stock cars over the years. If the IRL hopes to bring more fans to the track and in front of the TV, it can't afford to have its biggest and most talented stars defecting to NASCAR. And Patrick certainly qualifies as one of the series' biggest stars.
And while Stewart has found success in NASCAR, Franchitti and Hornish have -- to put it politely -- struggled. And as talented as Patrick is, she would likely struggle just as mightily in NASCAR, at least initially. And don't look for the media or fans to be all that forgiving if she were to do so.
That's not to say a move to stock cars in the future would be a bad move. But right now, Patrick finds herself running competitively in a revitalized series for one of the best teams in Andretti-Green Racing. She had three podium finishes last year, and on top of her win in Japan, Patrick has finished no worse than 10th so far this year. She's slowly coming into her own, and Patrick would be best-served to stay put for a while.
I think she realizes that and is happy to be in the IRL. And the IRL has to be happy to have her.