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by Dave Grayson
Friday, February 12, 2010


Danica Mania
Over the past few days we witnessed the latest round of Danica mania, we saw an early glimpse of 2010 excitement during the Budweiser Shoot Out and apparently there's a baby boom going on within Hendrick Motorsports. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin this week with:

Thumbs-up for Danica Patrick's official stock car debut in last Saturday's ARCA Series season opener at Daytona. Her sixth place finish in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 garnered a lot of favorable observations and the driver herself exited her car exhilarated after the race. It also led to a decision on making her NASCAR debut in next Saturday's Nationwide Series race also at Daytona.

Patrick's original plan was to make her NASCAR Nationwide Series debut, in her Go Daddy Dot Com/JR Motorsports Chevrolet, at the February 20th event at California's Auto Club Speedway. Many observers felt this was a solid plan and agreed that a debut at Daytona, with its restrictor plate racing elements, was not a good idea. Reaction to last Monday morning's announced change of plans seems to be running at about fifty-fifty in terms of opinions.

Whether or not next Saturday's series debut at Daytona is a thumbs-up or a what's-up will of course be ultimately determined by her finish position. Realistically an incident free race and a top fifteen finish would be considered another stock car triumph for Patrick. Right now the mission is about seat time on the track and the lessons that will come with that.

But Saturday's race will not be easy. With all due respects to the very fine ARCA Racing Series, comparing their Daytona event to next weekend's Nationwide Series race is like that old philosophical comparison of apples and oranges.

There are several drastic differences to support that theory. First there is the higher level of competition in the Nationwide Series race. This race traditionally attracts entries from Sprint Cup drivers and teams. The elements of aerodynamics and down force in the cars are also drastically different in the two series. There will also be a dramatic difference in the element of drafting and its by product known as bump drafting. Not to be overlooked here is the possible sense of challenge Patrick will feel during a routine four tire pit stop. It's also likely that Patrick will feel some angst over her debut with NASCAR's double file-shoot out style- restart policy.

But the real thumbs-up winners here will be those who benefit from the massive exposure that comes with Danica Mania. Again with all due respects, can anyone remember the last time an ARCA race received that much attention? The SPEED Channel certainly drew some good numbers from last Saturday's race as well. ESPN will also be a big winner this weekend when they present the Nationwide race. Daytona International Speedway is already anticipating a ten percent spike in ticket sales for this event.

Despite all of the hype and the attention one can't help but wonder if the change of plans is the best idea. Is Daytona really the place to launch a transition from open wheel Indy Cars to NASCAR stock cars? Will the team's original schedule, calling for Patrick's NASCAR debut to be held in California, turn out to be the correct call? We will all find out this Saturday.

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