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Harvick Says NASCAR Pulling For Danica

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2010
Kevin Harvick has kind words for Danica Patrick. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kevin Harvick has kind words for Danica Patrick. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

Concord, N.C. – Not surprisingly, one recurring question at the annual NASCAR Media Tour sponsored by Charlotte Motor Speedway is: How do you think Danica Patrick will do in stock cars?

A little over a week ago, former driver turned TV analyst Kyle Petty warned that Patrick’s chances of success are not great, considering she has had less on-track success than other open-wheel drivers who have attempted and struggled in making the transition to NASCAR.

The Izod IndyCar Series star, who will drive a Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, is scheduled to make her stock car debut in the ARCA race at Daytona early next month.  She will then begin her Nationwide Series career the week after the Daytona 500 at Auto Club Speedway in California.

Petty called Patrick a `”marketing machine” and added,  “If she gets in that car and doesn’t win races it’s not the car, it’s not the engines, it’s not the team. They only changed one thing. Initially, she’ll have an impact on the sport. If she’s successful, she’ll have a huge long-term impact on the sport.

“But if she’s not successful the only impact she’ll have on the sport is she wasted two or three years on a car that a good driver could have been in and could have been developing.”

Asked the same question Tuesday, Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick had a very different answer.

“Danica is a great person,’’ the Richard Childress Racing driver said. “She’s very motivated. She’s in very good shape. She’s very prepared for what’s coming – what she thinks is coming anyway. Obviously, there will be a lot of things for her to experience the first time. She’ll be under a lot of scrutiny.

“There’s going to be some major bumps in the road. She’s obviously very good at dealing with the media part of it, but this is going to be something where there’s not 11 or 12 competitive cars, there’s going to be 30. It’s going to be very hard and I think she understands that.’’

Harvick said that almost everyone in NASCAR welcomes Patrick, who will do her stock car apprenticeship before and after the IndyCar season that begins in mid-March and ends in early October.

“She’s very good for our sport and I think everybody understands that she’s going to be good for our sport,’’ Harvick said.

“Daytona (ARCA) is going to be a different animal,’’ he added. “That should be a great area for her to be successful in the beginning. It’s when you get to the Californias and you get to the different types of race tracks, the downforce tracks, that it’s going to be very complicated to grasp everything that’s coming at you with a new racetrack, a new car and no testing.

“You can test all you want at other race tracks, but when you get an hour and a half or two hours of practice and then they drop the green flag and you’re three wide going into turn one, that’s when it becomes real.’’

With all that pressure and such a big learning curve to face, Harvick said he believes Patrick will succeed.

“I don’t think the competitiveness of the cars is going to be a problem,’’ he noted. “It’s going to be about her getting seat time. But I think the guys who know anything about the sport want to help her, want to see her be successful because we all know that she’s very good for NASCAR.

“She’s very good because it brings more fan base to our sport. She’s obviously going to bring in new sponsors and she’s going to bring things that are different than what we’ve had here before.

“We’ve never had a female, in my era, that’s been competitive,’’ Harvick added. “Most of them have just been here because they’re female. I think Danica’s the first real female race car driver that’s coming in here. I’m not saying she’s going to be competitive overnight, but she’s the first one that’s got any sort of credentials that should be racing cars.’’

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2010