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.”