Danica Patrick jumps to NASCAR

Danica Patrick will drive in NASCAR in 2012
Danica Patrick will drive in NASCAR in 2012

Danica Patrick officially announced Thursday that she would leave the IndyCar Series at the end of the season, to drive full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2012.

Patrick will remain with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. In 20 career Nationwide starts, she has an average finish of 23.8, with one top five and three top 10s.

Patrick will also try to qualify for eight to10 Sprint Cup races, in a car fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing. One of the races is expected to be the Daytona 500, though at her news conference she couldn't confirm her Cup schedule for 2012.

She has run seven full-time seasons in the IndyCar Series where she has amassed one win, 20 tops fives and 61 top 10s in 111 starts. Her best points finish was fifth in 2009.

What they're saying

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "Danica has done a great job in a short amount of time for JR Motorsports. Her work ethic is probably the best of anyone in the sport.  People don't understand how difficult it is to do what she did – racing two totally different cars at the same time.  I'm glad she gets the opportunity to devote all of her attention to this car, because I think she's going to continue getting better.  Danica has earned her place on the track, and I look forward to having her and Go Daddy back in the No. 7 car next year."

Tony Stewart: "We're very excited to have Danica Patrick and Go Daddy join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012 for a limited NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule with the intention of us running her full-time in Sprint Cup in 2013. We're proud of the fact she wants to come and be a part of Stewart-Haas Racing and what we've built with Ryan Newman and myself and all of our partners. Having Danica and Go Daddy as a combination at SHR is something we're really looking forward to.

"The thing you see in Danica right away is how determined she is to be good at what she does. She's very dedicated to taking the time and effort to make the transition from Indy cars to stock cars. She has talent, she has the right mindset and she has the proper drive and determination. It doesn't matter who it is you're looking for, those are the key attributes that you look for in a driver, and Danica's got them.

"I see great things for Danica. Danica doesn't hold back. She really is a fearless competitor. She's taken a systematic approach to her stock car career, which is smart. I think with the support she has from Go Daddy and Dale Jr. and all of us at Stewart-Haas Racing, Danica has a very promising NASCAR future."

Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO: "We are pleased Danica Patrick has chosen to race full time in NASCAR in 2012," said . "She has demonstrated a strong desire to compete and NASCAR provides the best opportunity to race against the top drivers in the world with the largest and most loyal fan base in motorsports on a week-to-week basis. Danica has shown solid improvement in NASCAR and we believe her decision to run full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, with additional races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will be exciting for our fans and a great challenge for her."

Randy Bernard, IndyCar CEO: "Danica has always been a great ambassador for IndyCar, and there is no doubt  she has left a positive impression on our sport.  She has touched millions of fans and many that were new to motorsports. Danica attracted a fan base that every athlete and sports property in the world would love to have. 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. "

Posted by Brian De Los Santos on CBSSports.com