Danica Patrick all smiles for next season in NASCAR. Photo courtesy of Flickr user TheBusyBrain.
While it wasn't exactly the worst kept secret in motorsports, there's no denying that Patrick will bring in a lot of new fans and hype into stock car racing.
She'll compete full-time in the Nationwide Series driving the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevy from JR Motorsports, the same entry which she's dabbled with since 2010.
"If it was about money, I'd have gone a long time ago," Patrick said during her Thursday announcement per AP Sports Writer John Marshall's article. "I just go where my heart tells me, where my gut tells me to go, where I’m enjoying my life the most, where I feel like I can have the most success."
Patrick has encountered some success this season, with one top-five and three top-10's in her seven starts in the Nationwide circuit. Showing remarkable improvement from her efforts last year in which she only had one top-20 finish in 13 events, it appears that Patrick is ready for a full season of NASCAR racing.
In addition to her full-time efforts in the Nationwide Series, she will also compete on a part-time schedule in the Sprint Cup circuit as a driver for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Two of IndyCar's biggest defects to NASCAR will be working together, which could present an interesting combination now that Patrick will race alongside Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.
At the same token, NASCAR's gain leaves a huge hole for the IZOD IndyCar Series, which has been Patrick's home of sorts since 2005. Although she's only won once in the open wheel ranks (Twin Ring Motegi in 2008), there's no denying the star power and popularity she's got with fans of all ages and genders.
“Danica has always been a great ambassador for IndyCar, and there is no doubt she has left a positive impression on our sport,” IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Brian Bernard said in a statement. "We should give her a great farewell the rest of this season as she opens a new page in her career and wish her continued success with her new direction.”
Currently 12th in that series' points standings, Patrick and Andretti Autosport mutually agreed for the Roscoe, Illinois native's departure from the famed team, which has struggled as a unit this season.
Despite her defection to NASCAR, Patrick hasn't ruled out a run in next year's Indianapolis 500, nor one in the "Great American Race" next February.
No matter the reaction or thoughts on Patrick's full-time arrival in NASCAR, it appears as if Daytona Speedweeks 2012 and next season will be an interesting one as "Danicamania" will be making its way at full song.
Say what you want, racing fans - the times, they are a-changin', and Patrick will surely be changing some aspects of what NASCAR racing is all about.
[Associated Press via Yahoo! Sports]