Thursday, January 28, 2010

Danica Patrick and Nelson Piquet Jr. among the 2010 ARCA and NASCAR rookie class drivers.

The 2010 ARCA and NASCAR seasons does officially kick off for at least another two weeks at Daytona International Speedway, however the NASCAR off season has been in full swing with a number of announcements and today they kept coming especially when it comes to Danica Patrick and Nelson Piquet Jr.

Let’s start with Nelson Piquet, Jr., the Brazilian racecar driver that use to drive in Formula 1 for the Renault team, (you might remember him as the driver that was fired and admitted to crashing his F1 Renault back in 2008 at the night race in Singaport, more below) is now going to make his way to NASCAR starting in the ARCA Racing Series.

On his site, he says “NASCAR is hugely challenging and nobody has ever come in as an outsider before and gone on to win it, it will be the ultimate challenge. I will let you know more details on the exact programme soon.”

Now he is going to be starting his stock car career driving car the same way that a lot of NASCAR drivers do by racing in the ARCA Racing Series in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway. He will be driving the #6 Toyota fielded by Eddie Sharp Racing.

"I'm very excited! I can't wait to reach 200mph side-by-side and rubbing paint!" Piquet said, "The plans for the season are coming together really well, and I am racing with two very strong teams. I can't wait to get out on track!"

"We are excited to have Nelson driving for us in Daytona this year," said Sharp. "He will represent ESR well, and we believe he will gain some good learning miles in a stockcar, especially racing at Daytona."

Amazingly enough in 2010, Nelson Piquet, Jr. will not be along in following the ARCA path as IRL IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick has made her own headlines last December when she announced that she will be racing in the ARCA Series race at Daytona and running 12 races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports. Today, it was announced that will sponsor Danica in 10 of her 12 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series races in the #7 stockcar and just what 12 races she will be entered into.

Danica Patrick’s 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is:

2/13 Daytona International Speedway (TBD)
2/20 Auto Club Speedway
2/27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
6/26 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
7/9 Chicagoland Speedway
8/14 Michigan International Speedway
9/25 Dover International Speedway
10/9 Auto Club Speedway
10/15 Charlotte Motor Speedway
10/23 Gateway International Raceway
11/6 Texas Motor Speedway
11/13 Phoenix International Speedway
11/20 Homestead-Miami Speedway

“I’m thrilled to announce our 2010 Nationwide Series schedule,” said Patrick. “Like I’ve said before, we just want to be smart and calculative about this process. The tracks we’ve selected not only compliment the IndyCar schedule, but will give me quality seat time at a variety of facilities.”

(From JR Motorsports via Dover PR) While Patrick’s participation in the Daytona race is to be determined, JR Motorsports will still field two cars for the Nationwide Series season opener. Due to sponsorship reallocation for the upcoming season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet in place of Kelly Bires in what is the first of two scheduled races for the JRM co-owner. Bires will return to the seat of the No. 88 Chevy the following week at Auto Club Speedway and could be called upon to drive the No. 7 Chevrolet at Daytona should Patrick not compete in that event.

“We want to give Danica the best opportunity to compete at Daytona, and that includes making sure she is 100 percent comfortable in that driver’s seat,” Kelley Earnhardt said. “The Nationwide race there is perhaps the most competitive race of the year. Once the ARCA race is complete, we will get with Danica and make a decision based on the best interests of her, the team, and our sponsor Go Daddy. I’m extremely pleased with the working relationship between Danica and (crew chief) Tony Eury Jr. They are communicating well and working extremely hard in preparing for this season.”

How will Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Danica Patrick racing 2010 in ARCA and NASCAR?

I have to say that the Nelson Piquet, Jr. story caught me off guard a little considering the last story I read on him was him getting no charges against him because he told on his former Formula 1 team after he was ordered by his team to crash his Formula 1 Renault racecar at Singaport in 2008 to bring out a caution (which he did crash his racecar) to help his teammate Alonso who went on to win that race, which was Alonso’s first win of 2008.

I remember saying to a racing fan that I believe that back in 2008, that would be the last time we will hear from Nelson Piquet, Jr., no race team is going to want a driver that will crash a racecar because he was ordered too. I believe we all make chooses in our lives and that was a stupid one that could have been a lot worse. Another driver could have been injured as well, not to mention the ethical reasons and safety reasons. It’s something that you don’t do period.

So I’m amazed to see that he is now going to racing in the ARCA Series race at Daytona and is trying to race in NASCAR in 2010, of course who he will drive for in NASCAR is still yet to be announced. I guess this will be a wait and see type deal, but I for one at this moment am not in favor of him in NASCAR even though I believe in second chances.

With that said, 2010 will focus on Danica Patrick as one of the biggest stories of 2010 for sure, NASCAR fans have been hearing about her for years now of her wanting to make the jump to NASCAR and so far I have read both good comments on this jump as well as bad. Kyle Petty said that she is just a marketing machine. That in my opinion has yet to be seen.

I am going to be one of those NASCAR fans who will be watching just what Danica Patrick can do in stock car in NASCAR. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt, but at the same time, I believe that NASCAR fans as well as everybody else will see exactly what Danica Patrick can do in NASCAR by her final race of 2010 in Homestead. That’s when we all will know if she has a future in NASCAR or not.

As for the ARCA race at Daytona, I’m having a hard time trying to imagine why anybody would want to send a rookie in general and not just Danica Patrick or Nelson Piquet, Jr. into a race known to be a nail bitter, a dog fight and one of the toughest races all season long and that’s putting it loosely. It’s a giant chess match that not even the Cup Series, Nationwide Series or the Truck Series can duplicate and would want them too. ARCA at Daytona, damn!

But every year rookies seem to flock to the race and while some make it to the end of the race to finish in the top 5, top 10, most don’t. Basically I don’t expect to see much of Nelson Piquet, Jr after the ARCA race at Daytona, but I do expect to see a lot more of Danica Patrick all season long and I might just make the trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June to watch Danica live in person race on the “Magic Mile”. This should be an interesting racing season to say the least.

What’s your thoughts?