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Report: Patrick's NASCAR bow Saturday

DAYTONA BEACH — Danica Patrick will make her NASCAR debut in Saturday's Nationwide series race at Daytona International Speedway, reported Sunday.

Patrick finished sixth in her first stock car race, Saturday's ARCA event at Daytona.

The IndyCar star, who is running a partial schedule in NASCAR's second-tier series with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team, is guaranteed a spot in Saturday's field thanks to the points the car accumulated last season with Brad Keselowski driving.

An official announcement is expected today; Patrick had said she wanted to wait until after the ARCA race to make a final decision on entering the Nationwide event.

Patrick had previously announced that she would run Feb. 20 in Fontana, Calif., as part of what will now be a 13-race Nationwide schedule.

The Daytona race in the Nationwide series usually draws NASCAR's top talent.

Last week, days before her ARCA debut, Patrick had expressed trepidation at making her NASCAR debut in a superspeedway race.

"It really does come down to me, but I'm also listening to everyone around me," she said at the time. "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. It's a weird race. There's so many (Sprint) Cup guys out there."

Her crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., initially didn't want her starting her NASCAR stint at Daytona, but he had a different tune after the ARCA race.

"I would love for her to come back and run (this) week," he said.

Shootout a bit down on excitement meter

There was a tangible sense of electricity surrounding the first event of Speedweeks, a race everyone expected to be so rough-and-tumble that NASCAR's relaxed rules toward aggressive driving would certainly be tested.

Instead, Saturday night's exhibition Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, won by Kevin Harvick, felt more like a cease fire.

The bumping and banging that is a trademark of Daytona and Talladega, the sport's two restrictor-plate tracks, wasn't too intense until the closing laps. And the opportunity to dazzle fans with a spectacular Daytona 500 preview was lost.

"It wasn't nearly as crazy as I thought it would be," fifth-place Denny Hamlin said. "You would've liked to have seen a little bit more excitement."

But Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray, the second- and third-place finishers, both raved about how exciting it was. And fourth-place Kyle Busch complained numerous times during the race that many cars were out of control.

Speedweeks schedule

Noon Sprint Cup practice; 2 Sprint Cup practice; 3 Nationwide practice; 6 Trucks practice
9 a.m. Trucks final practice; 11:30 Nationwide final practice; 2 p.m. Sprint Cup Gatorade twin qualifying races (60 laps each); 6:10 Trucks qualifying
1:40 p.m. Sprint Cup practice; 3:10 Nationwide qualifying; 8 Trucks Nextera Energy Resources 250 (100 laps)
10:30 a.m. Sprint Cup final practice; 1:15 p.m. Nationwide Camping World 300 race (120 laps)
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Daytona 500 (200 laps)

Report: Patrick's NASCAR bow Saturday 02/07/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 8, 2010 12:23am]
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