Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Open-Wheel Driver Transition To Stock Car Racing Seen

SPEED coverage of the ARCA Racing Series season opener from Daytona scored a Nielsen Household Rating of 2.30 (1,723,000 households), a 59-percent increase over last year's 1.45 (1,062,000 households). Highlighted by the stock car debut of Danica Patrick, race coverage peaked at 2.66 (1,997,000 households), up a stunning 72 percent from last year's peak of 1.55 (1,137,000 households). Image Credit: ARCA

New Open-Wheel Driver Transition To Stock Car Racing Seen

Open-Wheel racing drivers take on a new challenge of placing a heavier, full bodied, sheet metal covered car around their seats as they take to the track in Daytona for the Automobile Racing Club of America race (ARCA Slick Mist 200) this last weekend.

Among the most prominent names from the IRL, Formula One, and etc. were Danica Patrick driving for a team put together by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick in the #7 Chevrolet, Nilson Piquet Jr. in the #6 Toyota prepared by ARCA standout, Eddie Sharp Racing, and Milka Duno driving the CANTV, Celebrity Jazz sponsored #90 Toyota.

Even though Piquet and Duno got caught out early in a multi-car crash and eventually were unable to finish the race, at the ARCA Series open test at Daytona in December, and in her very first time in a stock car, Milka was the fastest stock car rookie on the second day of the three-day test.

As for Piquet ... this Q&A from his fan website -- You started from a excellent 7th place for a debutant, even for a long time you were in fifth place. But then it went backwards for you.
Piquet: Well, it was almost expected that it would be in the race a completely different story. After the race was interrupted ( red flag ), I could not start my car. A problem with the main switch. Bad contacts or something. So I just had to start from behind again, then around 22, 23, 24 Place.

From there it went so well again to the front, but eventually it was over.
Piquet: I made it back to the twelfth. Everything went perfectly. For sure I would have stayed in front with it. But I had a lot of contacts. On three corners of the fenders the tires had or were scraping. On the right front, the aerodynamics were gone. At some point I was far too slow and could not keep the connection with the other drivers any more. There were also slow opponents.

What is for you the most important lesson of your first oval race?
Piquet: Today I learned a lot, lot more than I ever imagined. Patience is the key word.Just have patience. This is the most important thing.

You had a collision with Danica Patrick.
Piquet: What should I do? I was pushed down, she would probably just below try to get through. Then we touched.

Despite the Danica Mania that commanded the majority of the attention, Lebanon, Pennsylvania veteran Bobby Gerhart out-performed and out-smarted his closest rivals during Saturday's running of the 47th Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Int'l Speedway to earn a record sixth victory at the "World Center of Racing". Image Credit: ARCA

This excerpted and edited from NowPublic -

By Charles Oladeji | February 8, 2010 at 04:57 am

Next Sunday being St Valentine’s Day, another commercially driven ‘day of observance’ (or subservience if you see it thus) recreated by a well known greeting-card manufacturing company will be upon us once more. But, my excitement leading on to the 14th of February will have nothing to do with buying flowers, chocolate confectionary or the agonising ritual of purchasing sexy ladies lingerie. But rather, I’m keenly awaiting the arrival of that “Great American Race” known as the Daytona 500, which represents the real competitive beginning of the 2010 NASCAR season.
The extensive and gruelling nature of NASCAR competition, and the commitment it demands of Drivers and Teams alike, formed a substantial part of the numerous concerns put forward by those who questioned IZOD IndyCar Driver Danica Patrick’s Part-time involvement NASCAR, even though her participation in Nationwide Series in 2010 will be limited and overwhelming commercially driven (please pardon the pun).

Danica, took part in the scheduled Automobile Racing Club of America race (ARCA Slick Mist 200) at Daytona this past weekend amongst six other lesser known female Drivers including fellow Venezuelan IZOD IndyCar Driver Mika Duno. Unfortunately, Mika Duno did not finish the race while it’s reported that Danica put on a good showing coming in 6th overall having to fight her way back to the top 10 after being bumped off the track on the 54th lap by none other than Nelsinho Piquet.

The Brazilian former Formula One Driver Nelson (Nelsinho) Piquet Jr, who tested in the Truck Series at Rockingham last year for Red Horse Racing (RHR), and has debuted in ARCA racing this year, has also declared his intentions to stay with NASCAR for the foreseeable future. However, he finished in 27th position after being caught up in a pile up later in the 80 lap during the ARCA race on Saturday.

With Danica’s #7 Chevrolet finishing top 10 in what can be considered her first real Stock Car test in full glare of the media, Hendrick /JR Motorsport can feel a ‘wee’ bit vindicated for pursuing her driving services so aggressively last year, whilst commentators (myself included) questioned her driving ability in both IndyCar and Stock Car racing, where seasoned and aggressive Drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya have struggled to gain a steady foothold.

Yet, Danica Patrick is having a phenomenal effect on NASCAR at present, and I’ll readily admit to being a Danica Patrick fan. However, I’m no fan of Danica Patrick’s actual racing. Such is the media pull of Danica Patrick that the historic nature of the ARCA race winner Bobby Gerhard this saturday, winning the Slick Mist 200 for the 6th time was reduced to a footnote. How long Danica fans of my particular ilk remain intrigued by the Danica brand as the NASCAR season gets more competitive is unknown to us. What we do know is that beautiful people like Danica Patrick are good commercial business; and much needed business at that.
As the Daytona 500 rapidly approaches, Danica Patrick’s popularity has even managed to eclipse NASCAR new-age hero. Aged Mark Martin, who, building on last season’s success as part of Hendrick Motorsport with Jimmie Johnson has qualified in pole position for the forthcoming February 14th race. Current Sprint Cup Champion Johnson is positioned 7th on the grid while Martin will share the front grid with Dale Earnhardt Jr come the green flag at 1pm EST on Sunday.

One thing is becoming certain; St Valentine’s Day at Daytona will not be a romantic date with the beautiful people, Danica and Nelsinho.
Reference Here>>

Not just yet anyway ...

The racing debut ended early for Piquet and Duno but as this clipped report shows ... the race was pretty straight forward for the eventual race winner, veteran driver Bobby Gerhart, 51, and just a little less so for Danica Patrick.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. says that he is refraining from giving driver Danica Patrick too much advice heading into her stock car debut in Saturday's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards race, allowing the IZOD INDY Car Series veteran to make her own race day game plan. Image Credit: ARCA

This excerpted and edited from -

Gerhart wins his sixth ARCA 200 at Daytona
By Joe Jennings - - 2010-02-06 (Daytona Beach, FL)

Gerhart shared the post-race spotlight with Danica Patrick, who drove superbly to garner sixth place.

Dazzling the crowd, the colorful driver's race report reads as follows: started 12th, advanced to fifth, pitted once, lost the draft and dropped back, made contact with Nelson Piquet Jr. and slid through the grass on the front-stretch and kept the car off the wall, stopped twice for minor repairs, fell back to 20th and taking advantage of yellow flags, she bolted through the field in the in the final 10 laps to secure a solid finish [Danica's sixth place finish], to the delight of the chilled crowd.

"I learned how to use the fenders a little bit," Patrick said. "For the race, I wanted to play it smart, make it to the end and learn something from it. At the end, I just said to myself, 'What the heck, I don't really care as I have made it this far, let's see what else we can do.' It was a lot of fun. I got bumped from the front, the back and the side, and I learned a lot. Having so much fun in the car, I can't wait to do it again."
Reference Here>>

We can not wait either, Danica ... we wish that all of the new open-wheel transition drivers bring excitement to the turn-left crowd in full-bodied cars over the course of this next year.

... notes from The EDJE

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