Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart has said that he would be interested in talking to Danica Patrick about the possibility of her joining the NASCAR Sprint Cup team he co-owns with Gene Haas.

"Anybody that's got a Cup team that would have the availability would jump at the chance to do something with her," Stewart said Wednesday during a sponsor appearance. "You would be crazy not to entertain an offer like that and an opportunity for her to drive a race car for you."

Stewart was quick to add that he had not had any discussions with Danica to date and that none were currently in the works about the possibility of her signing up with Stewart-Haas.

When asked whether he thought she was ready for a full-time switch to NASCAR and to the Sprint Cup series in particular, Stewart said that she just needed time to make the adjustment.

"I didn't think I was ready for Cup and Bobby Labonte and Joe Gibbs said, 'Yeah, you're ready,'" Associated Press reported him saying. "It took me running some Cup races before I realized I was ready. I'm not sure you know until you get out and do it. She's smart enough. She didn't get to this level by making bad decisions.

"That's not an easy decision to make, but you have to think about what is best for you long term," Stewart continued. "She's the only one that knows what she wants to do. Whatever decision she makes, she's going to have a reason for it."

For his own part, Stewart is certainly motivated to grow his team up from its current two-car line up - it currently fields the #14 for Stewart and the #39 for Ryan Newman. But Stewart-Haas has no Nationwide presence, nor is Stewart interested in adding one anytime soon.

Stewart-Haas receives engine and technical support from Hendrick Motorsports, which partners with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series for which Patrick currently drives part time alongside her full-time IndyCar work with Andretti Autosport.

Conversely, JR Motorsports does not have a Cup presence and Earnhardt himself drives for Hendrick in the senior series. Patrick could not join Hendrick for the limited Sprint Cup programme she is believed to want to undertake in 2012 as the team is already "full-up": Cup teams can only run a maximum of four drivers in the series and Hendrick will be fielding Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Earnhardt next year.

Using their existing links with Stewart could allow Henrick to offer a package deal that would see her stay at JR Motorsports in Nationwide while running with Stewart-Haas in the Sprint Cup, ahead of a possible switch into the main Hendrick team in the future when she starts a full-time Sprint Cup presence.

However, Danica Patrick herself is remaining tight-lipped on her plans for a possible switch to NASCAR and continues to assert that there have been no definite decisions either way, despite media reports on Monday.

SI.com reports Danica as being as surprised as anyone by the sudden headlines on ESPN on Monday evening trumpeting her imminent defection to NASCAR.

"I'm watching TV and see it scroll across the bottom of the screen," she said. "I don't know where it came from but it's all speculation. Anybody can speculate that and write that. I don't know where it came from but there is no truth to it.

"It's just speculation ... It's no different than it was last month or even last year. There is nothing new in it."

Some of the more cynical pundits have been speculating that the ESPN story might have been the result of a deliberate tactic by Danica Patrick's management team to increase pressure on her current team Andretti Autosport as well as IndyCar and the series sponsor IZOD to come up with a better financial deal for her to stay.

There are serious concerns that Danica's departure from IndyCar, where she is by far the biggest star name in the series, will seriously setback attempts by organisers to rejuvenate the popularity of the championship after a disastrous CART/IRL split in the 90s, which has only recently been repaired.



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