JR Motorsports will leave it up to Danica Patrick as to when she will make her Nationwide Series debut.

Patrick will definitely race in the February 20 Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway in California and the February 27 Nationwide race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but could wait until after the Automobile Racing Club of America event February 6 at Daytona International Speedway before deciding whether to race in the Nationwide event February 13 at Daytona.

"The race is basically a Cup race - some 30-odd drivers from Cup (are) running that race, and is that the right time for me to start or not? I'm really not sure," Patrick said Thursday at JR Motorsports. "You only get one grand opening, as I've heard. We want it to be the right opportunity. We want to make sure everything is going the right direction, and everyone is on board with that.

"There is support across the board if I do or don't do it. It's just really a matter of time when we make that decision. We don't want to overcommit and underdeliver."

The 27-year-old Patrick will run up to 13 races in each of the next two years as she also competes full time in the Izod IndyCar Series.

"The biggest decision is going to be made, Danica is going to make (whether to run Daytona)," JR Motorsports director of competition Tony Eury Sr. said. "She doesn't know what to expect. I think she wants to wait until after the ARCA race. She wants to do good. She doesn't want to start off with negative press. If she thinks she can be in the Nationwide race and be a competitive car in the race, I think you'll see her there running.

"If she doesn't think she's quite ready for that after the ARCA race, I don't think you'll see her there. Whatever her decision is, we'll be prepared for it."

JR Motorsports is committed to putting her in a car with points for the Daytona race (if she runs), Auto Club and Las Vegas but after that, because the #7 is running part time, she will have to qualify on speed.

As far as Daytona, Patrick has talked with team co-owners Dale Earnhardt and Rick Hendrick about whether to start her Nationwide career on the restrictor-plate track.

"Daytona is just a beast," co-owner Kelley Earnhardt said. "Like she alluded to, the experience of 30-some Cup drivers out there against what experience she is going to have. Is that a situation she wants to put herself into? It's a do-or-die situation.

"Do we want to put that to be her first entry point coming into NASCAR? You're always remembered by it. Dale Jr., his first Daytona race in 1998, he was upside down on his roof."

Tony Eury Jr., who will serve as her crew chief, directed a recent test with Patrick and JR Motorsports driver Kelly Bires last Friday at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando and was pleased with the results.

"She did awesome at Disney World," Eury Jr. said. "Everybody was kind of sceptical and (wanted) to see how big of a task this is going to be. I don't think it's going to be a big problem. She got up to speed like she needed to; she understood the car very well."

Just getting the language down for Patrick to describe how the car is handling will be the first part of her transition.

"I really enjoyed the car at Orlando," Patrick said about the test. "I had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. The car really responded to driver input very well. There was some language barrier. (Eury Jr.) did a really good job with me. The first two changes were obvious and good, and then we just ran through a bunch of a stuff to give me the feeling of the car."

Patrick, who tested an ARCA car Friday through Sunday at Daytona, is approved to run the Nationwide Series race, series director Joe Balash confirmed Thursday last week.

As far as the rest of the schedule beyond February, Patrick indicated that she wouldn't do any Nationwide racing from March-May and then may again do some during the summer or in the fall.

That doesn't mean she won't be testing. Eury Sr. said the focus of some of the testing will be just getting Patrick comfortable entering and exiting pit road. The one thing they haven't been able to test is how to handle traffic.

"Everything is different in these cars," Eury Sr. said. "We worked real hard in everything we could. Our intention is to go win that ARCA race with Danica."

Eury Sr. also said he was impressed with Patrick in that first test, and his praise was important to Patrick.

"For Pops (Eury Sr.) saying what he said about being impressed goes a long way," Patrick said. "He's been around for a really long time and been able to observe plenty of drivers get in the car. That gives me a good confidence boost. That kind of makes me want to work harder and excel more and keep on making him happy.

"It's one step at a time. Just like a diet, you hit plateaus. But we've started off on a good note."

by Sporting News / NASCAR Wire Service


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