Rumors of IndyCar's Danica Patrick dipping a toe into the stock car racing pool have been swirling for months, but a new report suggests that an end to the rumors is near. ESPN says that Patrick is on the verge of signing a NASCAR Nationwide Series contract with JR Motorsports, the operation owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Unnamed sources that spoke to ESPN call the talks "near their final phase" and comment that it'd be a "surprise if it didn't happen." In any case, don't expect a formal announcement until sometime after the Sprint Cup chase draws to a conclusion on November 22.

The potential move to JR Motorsports was made possible when driver Brad Keslowski jumped ship to join Roger Penske's NASCAR Sprint Cup team. According to ESPN, Patrick is angling to drive the number 7 car (the same number she runs in IndyCar), which would replace the current JR Motorsports number 5 car. Since Danica will continue to run the full IndyCar schedule as well, she'd be a part-time driver for JR Motorsports, sharing the race car with Junior and another unnamed driver. If the signing happens and NASCAR gives its blessing, Danica will make her first stock car appearance in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA race on Feb. 6 during the Daytona Speedweeks, and go on to drive in 12 to 13 Nationwide Series races during the 2010 season. Frankly, given NASCAR's feel for marketing and Danica's undeniable celebrity, we see no way that she won't be in place for a debut during the February Speedweeks, assuming she does indeed ink the rumored deal.

[Source: ESPN | Image: Robert Laberge/Getty]