By Shawn Muller-

(CBS) The pride of Roscoe, Illinois—Danica Patrick—will be making the move from Indy Car to NASCAR beginning in 2012, where she will drive the No. 7 (shocking) Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series. The following year, she is expected to move up to NASCAR’s major leagues– The Sprint Cup Series– full-time.

Financially, the unification between arguably racing’s most popular driver and America’s most popular spectator sport makes too much sense. She is a marketing-machine that will put butts in the seats, bring new fans to the sport and help television ratings see a healthy jump.

Yes, if you are NASCAR officials, you have to be jumping for joy now that a full-time deal has been agreed upon.

But, other than the obvious financial gains both Danica Patrick and NASCAR stand to make in the coming years, will “Danica Mania” reign supreme on the track, or will it crash and burn coming out of turn one? I mean, it’s not like Danica Patrick is some sort of superstar driver.

She is an average driver at best.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Don’t take my calling Patrick an average driver as a knock on the racer. That is a fact. She is not going to come into NASCAR and start winning Sprint Cup Championships and she is not going to consistently finish in the top five.  I think the best we can expect out of her will be the occasional top ten finishes here and there.

On the flip-side, however, I don’t think she will be one of the worst drivers either. She will be a middle of the pack driver with flashes of brilliance, and that is not bad at all.

Will she win a race or two on America’s biggest racing stage?

I guess we will have to wait and see.

One thing we do know is that she won’t lack fanfare and she won’t lack star power no matter where she finishes each race. People gravitate towards a driver like a person gravitate towards water in a desert, and Danica Patrick has plenty of followers.

I think it is great that women are being taken more seriously—and are being given opportunities to prove they can compete– in traditionally male-dominated sports like NASCAR. But this isn’t Patrick’s first rodeo.

She has been an Indy Car series driver since 2005. She has competed on the biggest stages.  Sooner or later, she is going to need to be as successful on the track as she is off of it. We already know she is a sports icon and a pop-culture favorite, but she is a race car driver first.

Right now, I believe that it is hard to separate what Patrick is doing right now from what Anna Kournikova did on the tennis court.

Anna Kournikova was a “sex symbol”, a pop-culture icon, and a master at branding herself to the public. The problem was, even though she was a professional tennis player, nobody recognized her as an athlete first. She was that beautiful woman who happened to play tennis that never won a thing.

I don’t think Danica Patrick is built like that. She is a competitor, and I think she wants to be remembered as a good race car driver first.

I guess we will find out in 2012.

Shawn Muller

Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at Read more of his blogs here.