She returned in 2011 with a 12 race schedule, again with JR Motorsports and again working around her IndyCar commitments. She continued to improve and managed a fourth place score in Las Vegas as her best finish of the 2011 Nationwide Series season.
Danica Patrick was rumored to be leaving the IndyCar Series for NASCAR for years and her dabbling int he Nationwide Series only added fuel to the fire before she finally announced that she would be leaving IndyCar for NASCAR full-time.
2012 was her first full-time season in NASCAR. Danica competed full-time in the Nationwide Series while also getting her feet wet in the Sprint Cup Series. It was frustrating year for Danica as she didn't do as well as she would have liked. She ended up tenth in Nationwide Series points with a season-best finish of eighth in Texas.
In 2013 she moves up to the Sprint Cup series full-time. The learning curve will continue to be steep but I believe she will continue to make solid progress.
Danica Patrick Before NASCAR:
Her good looks, media savvy and budding talent made her a star in the IndyCar series long before she ever had the results to back it up. Then, in 2005, Danica Patrick exploded. The media circus that surrounded her rookie IndyCar season caused ratings for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 to spike an incredible 40%.
In 2005 Danica ran up front and was a serious threat to win her very first Indianapolis 500. She was the first woman to ever lead a lap and her fourth place finish was the highest ever for a woman. Danica was already one of the most recognizable faces in IndyCar but her strong run made her a household name.
Danica continued to improve. She scored her first podium finishes in 2007 and then finally broke through with her first win at Twin Ring Motegi in 2008.
Her points finishes improved steadily from her rookie season in 2005 through 2009. Danica ended the season standings with 12th, 9th, 7th and 6th place points finishes before finally scoring a top five points finish in 2009.
2005 - First IndyCar Series start
2005 - First Woman to Lead the Indianapolis 500
2008 - First IndyCar Series victory (Motegi)
2009 - Best Career IndyCar Points finish (5th)
2010 - First NASCAR Nationwide Series Start
2012 - Leaves IndyCar for Full-Time NASCAR Nationwide Series season
2012 - First NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Start
2013 - Moves to Sprint Cup Full-Time
2013 - First Woman to Claim NASCAR Sprint Cup Pole ( Daytona 500 )
Danica Patrick - The Complete Package:
The second thing that people will notice is that she is truly a talented race car driver. Sure she is prone to the occasional rookie mistake but very few drivers have handled the learning curve of jumping from the open wheel racers into NASCAR any better than she has. I expect now that she has the opportunity to focus on NASCAR she will complete her NASCAR education quickly and will make great progress.
Finally, she is intelligent and works well with the media. She handled the incredible media spotlight of the 2005 Indy 500 with great skill. When constantly asked about what it was like to be female she continuously directed the questions back to racing. For example when the question was "What was it like to be the first woman to ever lead the Indy 500?" her answer was "I was only thinking about being one lap closer to winning." This is an excellent answer.
Danica Patrick is truly one in a million. A pure racer who happens to be an attractive, intelligent woman.