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Danica Patrick certainly dresses the part...now can she drive a stock car at Daytona?

  Danica Patrick (L) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., now NASCAR teammates (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Wearing tight black leather pants, five-inch stilettos and a black leather jacket, Indy-car driver Danica Patrick certainly made a statement Thursday, during a press briefing in Charlotte on her upcoming NASCAR plans.
   She's to test the next few days at Daytona for the early February ARCA 200, and she then plans -- perhaps, perhaps not -- to run in the NASCAR Nationwide events at Daytona. She has confirmed plans to race at California's Auto Club Speedway in Los Angeles and the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas in the following weeks.
   That's certainly an ambitious game plan for someone who hasn't done much of any stock car racing. Those are three of the fastest tracks on the NASCAR tours.
   But then Patrick is about more than just the racing of course, as Chris Powell, head of the Las Vegas tracks, concedes: "We're ecstatic to be the site of one of Danica's first races in NASCAR competition. Danica is one of the most recognizable figures in all of sports, and her decision to place
the Sam's Town 300 on her schedule will add tremendous excitement to our 2010 NASCAR Weekend. 
   "Her decision to enter stock-car competition opens many doors in the NASCAR world from a promotional standpoint, and it provides a unique opportunity for us to cultivate new fans."
   Patrick herself? "I will work as hard as possible...And I have to be realistic about the situation and go 'Look, there are a lot of people who have taken a while to get used to this, and I'm not going to be any different.'
   "I hope I have an innate knack for this thing and it goes really well...really quickly. But it might take a while. 
   "The bottom line is there's a lot to learn."
   While NASCAR drivers, fans and media may be a bit circumspect about all this, NASCAR promoters are wide-open in embracing this new promotion. Loudon promoter Jerry Gappens brought 20 pounds of live lobsters to the press conference to personally invite Patrick to race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway's June New England 200, which will be during an open weekend on the Indy Racing League schedule.
   Patrick two weeks ago appeared to rule out racing NASCAR during the IRL season, but now she says she may reconsider and in fact may run some stock cars: "That's something we're going to look at. Our primary focus is going to be 'before and after' the Indy-car season.  But we will look at some options to running some (NASCAR) throughout the season possibly, yes."
   And Patrick also appears to be wavering on running the Nationwide race at Daytona, in part because of as many as 30 Sprint Cup regulars expected in that event. If she were to scratch Daytona, then the California race would be her Nationwide debut.




  While Chevy team owner Rick Hendrick is the power behind this deal, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (R) and sister Kelley Earnhardt (L) are the frontmen for the Danica Patrick in NASCAR gambit. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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