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