Pa­trick re­verses course and signs on for NASCAR Na­tion­wide de­but at Day­tona

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY JENNA FRYER

grass, fell to the back of the field, and still man­aged to drive her way to a sixth-place fin­ish.

So it came as no sur­prise that af­ter tak­ing a day to catch her breath, Pa­trick de­cided she should in­deed make her NASCAR de­but this week­end in the sec­ond-tier Na­tion­wide Se­ries race at Day­tona.

She’d been pre­vi­ously praised for declar­ing Day­tona not the right place to make her NASCAR de­but, but af­ter hold­ing her own in the ARCA race, every­one an­tic­i­pated the about-face that came Mon­day.

“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,” she 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.”

She’ll get it, too. Satur­day’s race is a big boy race, with more than half the field ex­pected to be Sprint Cup Se­ries stars. They’ve won nine of the last 10 Na­tion­wide races at Day­tona, dat­ing back to 2005 when Martin Truex Jr. won it in a JR Mo­tor­sports car.

Kel­ley Earn­hardt, gen­eral man­ager and part owner of JRM, doesn’t think Pa­trick will take the team back to Victory Lane on Satur­day.

But she doesn’t think she’ll stink up the show, ei­ther.

“My dream sce­nario is she would be up there in the top five com­pet­ing for the win,” Earn­hardt said Mon­day. “My rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion is that she just fin­ishes, and brings the car home and maybe gets a top 15. From a car owner stand­point, she showed Satur­day that she can make good de­ci­sions and not put other cars in jeop­ardy.

“Now, go­ing for­ward, if some­thing cat­a­strophic hap­pens this Satur­day, you’ve still got last week to look back on and say ’ We came out of that OK.’ I think that takes some of the pres­sure off and al­lows her to go into her first NASCAR race not wor­ried about her de­but.”

Re­gard­less of how she per­forms, Pa­trick is guar­an­teed to have an im­mense spot­light on her the rest of the week.

She’s been the cen­tral fig­ure of Speed­weeks since her ar­rival Thurs­day, and has been con­stantly swarmed by me­dia and fans ev­ery time she steps into the garage.

Her par­tic­i­pa­tion brought a whole new level of in­ter­est to the typ­i­cally over­looked ARCA Se­ries, and will un­doubt­edly do the same for NASCAR at a time when the auto racing se­ries is looking at any­way pos­si­ble to re-ig­nite fan in­ter­est.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Driver Dan­ica Pa­trick pre­pares to race in the Lu­cas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA se­ries auto race at the Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way in Day­tona Beach, Fla., Satur­day.

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