Feb 10, 2010

Danica Will Race The NationWide Race at Daytona

Danica Patrick will make her Nationwide Series debut in the No. 7 Chevrolet Saturday at Daytona, JR Motorsports general manager Kelley Earnhardt announced Monday.

Patrick, Earnhardt, and team officials convened Sunday following the ARCA event at Daytona, in which Patrick raced to a sixth-place finish in her stock-car debut. The decision for Patrick to compete in the Daytona Nationwide Series event is supported by sponsor GoDaddy.com and JRM co-owners Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Eury Jr., and Rick Hendrick.

"Racing in the Nationwide Series race was my goal during this entire two-month preparation process, but we wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do,"m Patrick said. "The ARCA race was a blast, and I'm not ready for my first Daytona Speedweeks to end just yet. I want more racing."

Patrick's entry in the Drive4COPD 300 puts her in a JR Motorsports tandem with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet. Patrick will continue her Nationwide Series schedule on Feb. 20 at Fontana and Feb. 27 at Las Vegas. Patrick is guaranteed starting positions in all three races based off JRM's acquisition of points from CJM Racing's No. 11 team, which finished 15th in the 2009 Nationwide Series owners' point standings.

"I think Danica proved to everyone that she can compete in stock cars at a high level, and right now seat time is extremely important," Kelley Earnhardt said. "She has worked extremely hard during the past two months for this opportunity. Her dedication and work ethic is infectious."

Patrick, the only woman to win an IndyCar Series race, had considered not competing at Daytona because of the uniqueness of restrictor-plate racing and also the number of Sprint Cup drivers in the event. But having survived a spin and moving from the back of the pack to near the front during the ARCA race, Patrick felt as if she progressed enough to make her NASCAR debut on NASCAR's biggest stage a day before the Daytona 500.

"There's been a lot of people, a lot of really good people, that have told me it's not the right place to start," Patrick said Friday. "It's a weird race. There's so many Cup guys out there. I don't want to be out there and make a mistake and take somebody out that's running for a championship or, God forbid, take out one of the Cup guys and making them mad right away.

"And it will not happen on purpose but it will be inexperience, so I just want to play it smart."

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