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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Danica Patrick to make first NASCAR start Saturday in Daytona

Ah, Daytona.

Where the sun shines, the lazy beaches roll, and the NASCAR engines roar twice a year when the boys and girls come to town.

Hold on, boys and girls?

Well, girl anyway.

Danica Patrick will make her first NASCAR Nationwide Series start Saturday when her Chevrolet rolls onto the high banks of Daytona.

The go-ahead decision to participate in Saturday's race came Monday after her impressive performance in last weekend's ARCA Series race.

Patrick fell to last place in the race after a spin on lap 54 but managed to fight her way back through the pack to finish sixth.

The spunky 27-year-old from Roscoe, Illinois showed what she had in the comeback, dashing up, down, left, and right for positions before the checkered flag halted her efforts.

"I was goin' side by side with people," said Patrick after the race, smiling ear to ear.

"The GoDaddy car doesn't look very pretty, but it was fun."

Saturday's ARCA race was the most-watched ever, with an increase of over 87 percent from last year.

Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon said he believes this weekend's Nationwide race will be no different.

"I'm as excited as anybody else to watch," he said. "It's exciting."

Daytona expects a ten percent attendance increase for Saturday's Nationwide race, a jump that's unprecedented over the last decade.

But the female phenomenon hasn't made it this far without criticism from some of NASCAR's greats.

Seven-time Cup champion and NASCAR owner Richard Petty doesn't believe Patrick's move to a stock car career will prove successful.

"I just don't think it's a sport for women," said Petty. "And so far, it's proven out. It's really not. It's good for them to come in. It gives us a lot of publicity, it gives them publicity."

"But as far as being a real true racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough."

Patrick will try to continue proving "The King" wrong this weekend, hoping to continue her success despite a huge jump in competition level.

The DRIVE4COPD 300 will be televised live Saturday on ESPN2. Coverage from Daytona begins at 1 PM ET.

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