Patrick to leave IndyCar behind for NASCAR

By JOHN MARSHALL | August 25, 2011 | 1:30 PM EDT

In this July 1, 2011, photo, Danica Patrick gets ready to get into her car during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Patrick will hold a news conference Thursday, Aug. 25, and is expected to announce her 2012 move to NASCAR. The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Patrick was finalizing a deal to drive fulltime for JR Motorsports in the second-tier Nationwide Series. An advisory said Patrick will announce her 2012 plans while "putting the rumors to rest with the `real story in her own words.'" (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Danica Patrick is officially headed to NASCAR.

After months of skirting speculation, Patrick announced Thursday that she's leaving IndyCar in 2012 to run a full Nationwide schedule with JR Motorsports and up to 10 Sprint Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing.

One of auto racing's most marketable stars, Patrick says she hasn't mapped out which races she'll run in Sprint Cup and didn't rule out a return to open-wheel racing for the 2012 Indianapolis 500.

Patrick had her highest finish at the Indy 500 when she took third in the 2009 race and became the first woman to win an IndyCar race when she took the checkers at Japan in 2008. She has driven 20 races for JR Motorsports the past two years and has five more scheduled with the team this season.