ARCA debut to dictate Danica's plans

Updated: February 4, 2010, 7:21 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Danica Patrick could win her stock car debut at Saturday's ARCA race at Daytona and still decide to bypass the Nationwide Series opener there a week later.

"[Winning] doesn't mean that I'm ready for that race," the IndyCar star said Wednesday. "Maybe I didn't get put in very many tough situations."

Patrick joked that she was giving herself "a get out of jail free card." She won't commit to any particular yardstick of what it would take to convince her to make her NASCAR debut in the second-tier series Feb. 13 at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick It's a much different animal from the Daytona 500 weekend with 30 Cup drivers and more cars and more experience. Every level you step up, if you're not prepared, it's just exponentially harder.

-- Danica Patrick

"That way, whatever I decide, nobody can argue with me," Patrick said.

Where she finishes is less important than which new challenges she faces -- and how she handles them.

"I'll have to feel comfortable in all situations," Patrick said. "It's a much different animal from the Daytona 500 weekend with 30 Cup drivers and more cars and more experience. Every level you step up, if you're not prepared, it's just exponentially harder.

"It's going to have to be a pretty stellar weekend."

Otherwise, Patrick will make her debut the following week in Fontana, Calif. JR Motorsports said last week that Patrick would race at least 12 NASCAR events this season but left the first one up in the air.

It all depends on how she feels after Saturday's debut -- and that may have very little to do with the standings.

"Trust me, there have been some [IndyCar races] where I've walked away, I'm like, 'Dude, I did a pretty good job. I know I finished eighth today, but if you'd have known how that car felt, you'd see how much of a hero I was,' " Patrick said.

Daytona would be a daunting task with its field of more than a dozen Sprint Cup regulars. Then again, it would also be a high-profile stage. The race was just renamed the DRIVE4COPD 300, supporting the cause Patrick was in New York promoting Wednesday.

Patrick, actor Jim Belushi, former Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, singer Patty Loveless and former NFL star Michael Strahan are part of an initiative to screen people for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The other four will serve as grand marshals at the race.

Patrick's grandmother suffered from emphysema, one form of COPD. She remembers how her grandmother was confined to a wheelchair, on oxygen 24 hours a day.

"For me, I didn't even get a chance to really have a good, deep relationship and a meaningful, mature one with her," Patrick said, "because she was gone so young, and I was just a teenager."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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