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Patrick to make Nationwide debut Saturday

Danica Patrick to debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Daytona after impressive ARCA showing
Danica Patrick has made a living of going fast. So why put off until next week what she can do this week?

Patrick will make her NASCAR debut Saturday in the Nationwide Series season-opening Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick announced the decision Monday, two days after finishing sixth in her stock-car debut in the ARCA race at Daytona.

“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,” 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.”

Her JR Motorsports team had a car ready for her for the Nationwide race, the first of 13 planned this year around her IndyCar schedule.

“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,” JRM co-owner Kelley Earnhardt said. “She has worked extremely hard during the past two months for this opportunity. Her dedication and work ethic is infectious.”

Patrick, 27, is locked in the field, thanks to a points transfer from the #11 CJM Racing team last year. Patrick will have at least one drafting partner in the race — team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be driving the #88 car. The decision for Patrick to run the #7 car will mean that JR Motorsports regular driver Kelly Bires will not be in a JRM car for the event.

After Daytona, Patrick will run in the next two Nationwide Series events at Auto Club Speedway in California and Las Vegas before taking nearly four months off before her next NASCAR event June 26 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

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 last 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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Danica Patrick
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 6, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with his wife, Chandra and daughters Genevieve and Lydia Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, crosses the finish line for the victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, has an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag ahead of Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag ahead of Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, poses with the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #24 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet SS, races to a seventh-place finish Sunday, February 21, 2016 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 Golden Corral Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet SS races to an eighth-place finish, February 21, 2016 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch/Jimmy John`s Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS makes a pit stop Sunday, February 21, 2016 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Harvick finished 4th in the race. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch/Jimmy John`s Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet SS race Sunday, February 21, 2016 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Harvick finished 4th and Dillon finished 9th. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)

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