Source: Danica to run Nationwide

Updated: February 8, 2010, 8:46 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick will enter Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com on Sunday.

The IndyCar Series star who is beginning the transition to NASCAR made the decision after finishing sixth in her stock car debut on Saturday at Daytona's ARCA race (which is not affiliated with NASCAR). An official announcement will be made Monday.

Nationwide is the Triple-A minor league of NASCAR, which features the Sprint Cup Series as the highest level of racing. Patrick is planning a limited Nationwide schedule this season.

She will be guaranteed a spot in Saturday's field using the points Brad Keselowski accumulated in the No. 88 for JR Motorsports last season.

Crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who initially was against Patrick's making her Nationwide debut at Daytona, didn't hesitate to give a "yes" vote following the ARCA event.

"Me and Rick [Hendrick] told her the first time we ever met her, that Daytona might not be the place you want to do it," Eury said of starting her part-time Nationwide schedule. "It's basically a [Sprint] Cup race. You don't want to put her in a situation where she is going to fail. We told her to come down, run this race, get her feet wet and if you're comfortable do it.

"I would love for her to come back and run next week."

So would primary sponsor GoDaddy.com, according to multiple sources.

Not everybody is for it. Several crew chiefs in the Sprint Cup garage said Patrick would be better off waiting until the second race at California to jump into Nationwide, mentioning the potential for disaster in running nose-to-tail in large packs.

Despite her performance in the ARCA race, Patrick still hesitated to run close to the car ahead of hers, a necessity in restrictor-plate racing for a driver to remain competitive.

"That's the kind of thing that is going to take gradual time, to get used to bump drafting," Eury said Saturday. "We just keep talking. This tonight is the most homework we can do."

Patrick's biggest reservation about Daytona was keeping JR Motorsports teammate Kelly Bires out of the event and perhaps costing a driver competing for the championship valuable points if she makes a mistake.

Patrick's only major mistake in the ARCA race came with less than 30 laps remaining when she lost control and spun through the tri-oval and through the grass. But she made a nice recovery and rallied from last to sixth.

"I couldn't ask too much more," Eury said. "She was put in a predicament, her and her spotter worked good together. I was very impressed those last 20 laps. I was, 'All right, she's getting it done now.'

"Are you going to run in the top-5 in a Nationwide race? You're going to have to have a lot of luck. But I think she showed right there at the end she's very capable of running in the draft."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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