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NASCAR Daily News Headlines * February 8, 2010

Shootout Ratings Off

The Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night earned a 4.1 Nielsen overnight rating, the same overnight rating it posted a year ago, according to the SportsBusiness Daily. Both events were shown live on Fox. Daytona 500 qualifying, which last year was televised by Fox on the Sunday following the Budweiser Shootout but was pushed this year to Saturday afternoon because of the Super Bowl, drew a 1.6 overnight rating, down 24 percent from a year ago.(jayski.com)

Official: Danica Will Race

Danica Patrick will make her NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet this Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, JR Motorsports general manager Kelley Earnhardt announced today. Patrick, Earnhardt, and team officials convened Sunday following the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) event at Daytona, in which Patrick raced to a sixth-place finish in her stock-car debut. The decision for Patrick to compete in the Daytona Nationwide Series event is supported by sponsor GoDaddy.com and JRM co-owners Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Eury Jr., and Rick Hendrick.

“To be the one driving that Go Daddy car at Daytona means a lot to me,” Patrick said. “Racing in the Nationwide Series race was my goal during this entire two-month preparation process, but we wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do. The ARCA race was a blast, and I’m not ready for my first Daytona Speedweeks to end just yet. I want more racing.”

Patrick’s entry in the Drive4COPD 300 puts her in a JR Motorsports tandem with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will drive the No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet. Patrick will continue her Nationwide Series schedule on Feb. 20 at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) and Feb. 27 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway. Patrick is guaranteed starting positions in all three races based off JRM’s acquisition of points from CJM Racing’s No. 11 team, which finished 15th in the 2009 Nationwide Series owners point standings.

“I think Danica proved to everyone that she can compete in stock cars at a high level, and right now seat time is extremely important,” Kelley Earnhardt said. “She has worked extremely hard during the past two months for this opportunity. Her dedication and work ethic is infectious.”

GoDaddy.com will be the primary sponsor for 11 of Patrick’s 13 Nationwide Series races in 2010. The world’s largest domain name registrar also served as primary sponsor for Patrick’s ARCA debut last week. She started 12th in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 and finished sixth, including a late rally from 23rd position all the way to the front pack in just under 20 laps.

“Danica’s got what it takes, and it’s obvious from the ARCA race NASCAR is right up her alley,” said Go Daddy CEO and Founder Bob Parsons. “She’s ready to drive the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevy in Daytona and is sure to give the fans an exciting show just like she did in the ARCA race.”

Motorsports This Week on ESPN

NASCAR Nationwide Series Opener, Danica Patrick NASCAR Debut Live from Daytona on ESPN2

The NASCAR Nationwide Series kicks off its 2010 season this weekend at Daytona International Speedway and ESPN2 will have live coverage as the series races for 300 miles on the famous Daytona high banks. The much-anticipated NASCAR debut of open wheel racing star Danica Patrick will be one of many intriguing storylines in the event.

NASCAR Countdown starts ESPN2’s race day coverage on Saturday, Feb. 13, at noon ET. The race telecast starts at 1:15 p.m. with the green flag at 1:34 p.m. Marty Reid will be the lap-by-lap announcer for ESPN2’s race coverage, joined in the booth for analysis by 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Dale Jarrett and two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Andy Petree. Pit reporters will be Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch. Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Tim Brewer will report from the ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage.

Allen Bestwick will host NASCAR Countdown from the ESPN pit studio, with analysis by 1989 NASCAR Cup champion Rusty Wallace, three-time NASCAR champion crew chief Ray Evernham and Brad Daugherty, a team owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

ESPN2 also airs live coverage of NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying on Friday, Feb. 12, at 3 p.m., as well as NASCAR Nationwide Series practice coverage on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 11:30 a.m.

NASCAR Now Live from Daytona All Week

NASCAR Now, ESPN2’s daily news and information show totally dedicated to NASCAR, originates from Daytona International Speedway with daily one-hour episodes this week. The program will originate from the ESPN Pit Studio behind pit road at Daytona and will include driver interviews, reports, analysis and the latest news.

Allen Bestwick hosts programs airing Tuesday, Feb. 9, and Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 5 p.m. ET, as well as Thursday, Feb. 11, at 5:30 p.m. Nicole Briscoe will be in the host seat for the program airing Friday, Feb. 12, at 6 p.m. Bestwick hosts the weekend edition at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14, the day of the Daytona 500.

The Monday, Feb. 15, edition at 5 p.m. will feature a roundtable discussion with ESPN analysts Rusty Wallace, Ray Evernham and Ricky Craven hosted by Bestwick.

Special SportsCenter Airs from Daytona

SportsCenter will present a one-hour special from Daytona International Speedway on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, the eve of NASCAR’s Daytona 500. Hosted by Allen Bestwick, with analysts Rusty Wallace, Ray Evernham and Brad Daugherty, SportsCenter at Daytona will preview the Great American Race with analysis, opinion, and interviews.

SportsCenter is ESPN's flagship studio show and television's only nightly, one-hour sports news program. Offering in-depth reports on breaking news, creative highlights, features and in-depth analysis from award-winning journalists, SportsCenter is television's most comprehensive and longest-running sports news show.

ESPN2 Airing NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series Preview Shows

ESPN2 airs season preview shows for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series on Tuesday, Feb. 9, starting at 2 p.m. ET with the 30-minute Nationwide Series preview. The Sprint Cup program airs at 2:30 p.m.

ESPN2 will be the home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series all season, with selected races on ESPN and ABC. ESPN Networks also will have live coverage of the final 17 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, including all 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

ESPN Classic Revs Up with Classic Daytona 500, SportsCentury Airings

To help get NASCAR fans fired up for the opening of the season, ESPN Classic re-airs episodes of its signature series SportsCentury featuring some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers during afternoons on Wednesday through Friday of this week.

Episodes featuring Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. air Wednesday, Feb. 10, starting at 2 p.m. ET. The next day, episodes featuring Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart air starting at 2:30 p.m. Richard Petty and Tim Flock are featured Friday starting at 2 p.m..

In addition, starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, the eve of the Daytona 500 , and carrying through the night, ESPN Classic televises highlights of five of the best Daytona 500 races of all time – 1979, 1998, 1999, 2007 and 1976.

Also airing on ESPN Classic this week is a classic NASCAR race from Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 1986 Atlanta Journal 500 airs Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 1 a.m.

Red Horse Signs Nelson Piquet Jr.

Red Horse Racing is pleased to announce the addition of Nelson Piquet Jr. to its stable of drivers for the 2010 Camping World Truck Series season. Piquet Jr. will pilot the #1 Toyota Tundra in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

The Brazilian born, former Formula 1 driver participated in two tests for Red Horse Racing to acclimate to a different style of race vehicle. The tests at the Motor Mile in October 2009 and at New Smyrna Speedway earlier this month helped Piquet Jr. increase his comfort level in the #1 Toyota Tundra. He also drove in the ARCA RE/MAX event at Daytona International Speedway (started seventh, finished 27th) prior to the Camping World Truck Series race.

Just 24 years old, Nelson Piquet Jr. has already made a name for himself in several racing series around the globe. He experienced instant success in the South American Formula 3 Series, finishing fifth in the championship after running only half of the races in 2001. Piquet also became the youngest driver ever to win the British F3 title earning him recognition by the Formula 1 community. Piquet continued to impress in the Formula 1 feeder series, GP2. He earned one race win and four podium finishes in his first year. He followed up that season with a close run for the championship. He eventually finished second but his performance led to ING Renault signing him as a test driver for their F1 team in 2007. After a year as a test driver, Piquet got his chance to race in the F1 series alongside teammate Fernando Alonso in 2008 and 2009.

“I’m very excited! The size of the Daytona track is amazing. I can’t wait to reach 200mph side-by-side in a tight drafting pack of trucks!” Piquet said. “The plans for the season are coming together really well. I can’t wait to get out on track and start my NASCAR career!”

“We have closely observed Nelson in our testing and believe he has a great future in NASCAR. He exhibits excellent car control, gives good feedback, but needs the side by side experience. He’ll get plenty of that in Daytona!” said Tom DeLoach, managing partner of Red Horse Racing. “Nelson has a huge international following which hopefully will attract a race partner for the team.”

Red Horse Racing is still seeking sponsorship of the #1 Toyota Tundra.

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