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Danica Patrick might make NASCAR debut at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana

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Danica Patrick said today she might make her NASCAR debut Feb. 20 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

The popular IndyCar driver recently announced plans to try her hand at stock-car racing on a limited basis in 2010, driving in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series in a Chevrolet prepared by JR Motorsports, a team led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver.

The Nationwide season opener is Feb. 13 at the high-banked Daytona International Speedway. At a news conference today with Earnhardt in Mooresville, N.C., Patrick and JR Motorsports officials said that while it was still undecided whether she would drive in that race, she would race in the Stater Bros. 300 at Fontana.

They also said JR Motorsports would field a Nationwide car for Patrick at the next race, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Feb. 27, and that they hoped she could drive in up to 13 Nationwide races during the year.

"As for the exciting, big Daytona race -- [the] Nationwide race -- we have yet to decide on that," Patrick said. "There's still some things to figure out. We'll have to decide if that's the right opportunity."

In the meantime, Patrick first plans to get her feet wet at Daytona on Feb. 6 by driving in a race in the lower-level ARCA stock-car racing series, which is separate from NASCAR. She is scheduled to test an ARCA car at the famed Daytona Beach, Fla., track on Friday.

As a rookie in the Izod IndyCar Series in 2005, Patrick raced at Auto Club Speedway, where she started fourth and finished 18th after an accident. The series no longer races at the sprawling two-mile oval.

Not long after Patrick's news conference, the speedway announced that general-admission tickets to the Feb. 20 race would start at $30.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Danica Patrick speaks with the media today at the Mooresville, N.C., headquarters of NASCAR Nationwide Series team JR Motorsports. Credit: Jason Smith / Getty Images

 
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