Auto racing: JR Motorsports mulling Danica Patrick decision
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Danica Patrick is expected to announce Monday if she will enter the Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
JR Motorsports has said it will be up to Patrick to decide if she wants to make her NASCAR debut in the Feb. 13 second-tier series race at Daytona, and she wanted to wait until after her stock car debut to make a final decision.
After she rallied from a midrace spin in Saturday's ARCA race at Daytona to finish sixth, the buzz has been growing that Patrick will indeed enter the Nationwide race. Tony Eury Jr., her crew chief and part of the ownership group at JR Motorsports, said he would speak to Patrick on Sunday to make a decision.
"The cars are ready if that's what she wants to do," he said. "If not, then we'll come down with somebody else. But it would a real pleasure for her to do it."
A spokesman for JR Motorsports said any announcement would not come before Monday.
Patrick has already announced that she'll run the Feb. 20 race at Auto Club Speedway in California as part of a 12-race Nationwide schedule. There was room for a 13th race — Daytona — at her discretion.
What she is mulling over, though, is the level of competition and complexities of drafting in the Nationwide opener. Daytona usually draws NASCAR's top talent, and Sprint Cup drivers have won nine of the last 10 Nationwide races here. The lone exception was Martin Truex Jr., who won in 2005 in JR Motorsports car.
"It really does come down to me, but I'm also listening to everyone around me," Patrick said about the thought process. "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 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, taking out one of the Cup guys and making them mad right away."
She made those comments before successfully finishing the ARCA race, and after, indicated she wanted to take some time to evaluate the experience. She was also aware that should she enter the Daytona race, JR Motorsports driver Kelly Bires will lose his seat for the weekend.
"I haven't made any decision on (the Nationwide race)," she said. "I'm just thinking about what I learned, what I could do better and everyone's hard work. We've not talked about next weekend. Kelly is running the full season and it's either me or him.
He's been a really great teammate (at Daytona). He's racing for points and I have to think about that."