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Danica Patrick moves to NASCARR The first lady of car racing has proven time and again she can hang with the boys.

Danica Patrick, as fiesty as she is petite, is probably the best known professional female racer in the world. Named IndyCar Rookie of the Year in 2005, after becoming the first woman to lead the Indy 500, she was also voted the Most Popular Driver title for five years. Patrick became the first female to win a major-league oval race at Japan in 2008 and added NASCAR to her resume last year. While she hasn’t ever been on top of the sport, her fourth place finish in the Sam’s Town 300 in March marked the best NASCAR finish ever by a woman.

Her talent and business savvy have helped her make some nice bank. This week Forbes ranked Patrick as the third richest female athlete in the world (after tennis players Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki). Earnings estimates, for the 12-month period ending July 1, 2011, include prize money, salaries, appearance fees, licensing income and endorsements. Patrick earned in the neighborhood of $12 million last year.

Patrick’s purse is not only earned behind the wheel. She manages to keep her life just as fast-paced off-the-track as she does behind the wheel. In addition to her gig as a GoDaddy girl, The Hollywood Reporter details Patrick’s top entertainment projects including a stint in a Jay-Z music video and an episode of “CSI: NY.” Patrick also tried her hand at voice acting for an episode of The Simpsons, in which she played herself. She has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was featured in the magazine’s swimsuit issue. Patrick famously posed for FHM magazine in 2003 (draped across the hood of her car), but drew the line at a Playboy offer, opting to participate in an interview instead.

For months, rumors have been swirling that 29-year old will race full-time in NASCAR. Today, the Associated Press reported the popular driver is finalizing plans to make the move in 2012.

According to AP, Patrick will compete full-time with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports in the Nationwide division while driving in selected Sprint Cup races for Tony Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing.

Patrick nor team officials have yet to confirm the news but the move makes sense on a variety of levels. Her comittment to NASCAR could help ignite ratings and add more sponsors to her slate. She will continue to race in the IndyCar series, most notably the Indy 500.

It seems racing’s hottest driver just got hotter.

 

@jschonb

dare to dream

Also online at blogher.com/sports and womentalksports.com

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