Patrick takes next step in stock cars

Updated: February 11, 2010, 3:39 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick has taken the next step in her stock car racing education, staying out of trouble and learning as much as she can in her first NASCAR Nationwide series practice at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick's crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., says she was comfortable in the car Wednesday and did a good job handling the jump from ARCA to Nationwide. After finishing sixth in the Daytona ARCA race on Saturday, Patrick is preparing to make her Nationwide race debut Saturday.

"She just soaks it up, man," Eury said. "She just asks question after question, and we just try to give her the answers."

Patrick finished 26th on the speed chart. Eury said practice speeds aren't particularly important at Daytona because they don't indicate how fast the car will be in the race.

"We kept the car in one piece, I ran out there with some big guys, so that was good," Patrick said in a television interview. "I played it pretty safe."

After finishing sixth in the Daytona ARCA race on Saturday, Patrick is preparing to make her Nationwide race debut Saturday.

"I think it's a little too soon, personally," Jeff Gordon said. "But I probably would have made the same decision if I was in her position. And you've got to get that experience."

A few drivers took to Twitter to poke fun at the media and fan attention Patrick is receiving.

Scott Speed posted a note on his feed saying that the media seems to consider Patrick the best driver since Dale Earnhardt Sr. and is "also related to Jesus."

Regan Smith said on his Twitter feed, "Maybe ESPN could cover Danica on ESPN2 and the other 50 plus cars on ESPN Classic."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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