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Bires ready for first Nationwide start

Kelly Bires steps in for his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with JR Motorsports at Auto Club Speedway
A young driver is about to drive a JR Motorsports Chevrolet for the first time this year in the Nationwide Series.

No, it's not Danica Patrick. Not everything these days in NASCAR is about the IndyCar star.

The young driver is Kelly Bires, 25, who was the odd-man out in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway last weekend. Team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the #88 entry at Daytona, while Patrick chose to make her NASCAR debut and was in the #7.

That left Bires on the sidelines, drawing sympathy from fans and competitors alike. Bires was the heir apparent to Brad Keselowski on the team but couldn't make the start at Daytona.

“It kind of surprised me how many people really knew who I was,” Bires said. “That brought attention that you do have some pretty dang loyal fans out there. I think everyone just wanted to see me — they know the opportunity I've got ahead of me, and they wanted to see me racing.

“Everyone's always excited about the first race of the year. Daytona's always a big one. There's a couple months off of racing, and everyone's watching it. It just creates a big deal. I think if I would've run that race and maybe missed California, it might not have been as big a deal. But just all the hype leading up to Daytona, it kind of intensified it a little bit.”

While Bires got his share of attention, Patrick was under intense media scrutiny. And that likely will continue this weekend in Saturday's Stater Bros. 300 at Auto Club Speedway. Bires doesn't really mind seeing his more popular teammate getting the attention, which could help him focus more on his task at hand.

“You know it's going to come to her, just because it's obviously something new to the sport,” Bires said. “It's the new hot ticket. The media either wants to get a piece from her — it's the new hot thing. It's like the new soda out there. It's kind of what it reminded me of. Obviously, it'll fade away as we continue to race through the schedule.”

Bires also hopes his deficit in the championship race will fade away as the season continues. He's in a deep hole in the title hunt after missing Daytona, and he knows it. Crew chief Tony Eury Sr. said before the season he expected Bires to pick up right where Keselowski left off in the #88, but now Bires will be in catch-up mode. Keselowski finished third in each of the past two years, winning six races.

“Our focus is more going out there every week and running in the top ten, top five and winning races,” Bires said. “The points obviously take care of themselves. Missing one race, it's going to add a little bit of difficulty to keep up with people like Carl (Edwards).”

Keselowski regularly raced Edwards, the 2007 Nationwide champion who finished second the past two years. Bires finished 13th in 2008, his only full season in the series. He started 14 races last year, finishing in the top 10 three times. Keselowski made every start in his two full-time seasons.

“I don't think it's out of the question that we can miss one race and still do it,” Bires said. “But you just can't have any DNFs, can't have anything that's going to hurt your points. You've got to have a solid points day every week. You can't have an off-week when you missed one.”

by Lee Montgomery/Sporting News



Related Pictures

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Kelly Bires gets his first start in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
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)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, March 11, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Hendrick Motorsports driver Johnson experienced an issue during qualifying.  He will go to a back-up car. (Photo by Harold Hinson 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)
Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Toyota, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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)
Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Toyota, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/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)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS drives to victory Thursday, February 18, 2016 winning the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Can-Am Duel races at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. This is Earnhardt Jr.`s second consecutive Duel victory. He will start on the inside of Row 2 for Sunday`s Daytona 500 race. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Chevrolet, races Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, poses in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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