February in Florida means NASCAR at Daytona, and racing fans got a full week of racing pleasure at the Hershey’s Milk and Milkshakes Speedweeks 2010 preceding the 52nd running of the Daytona 500. NASCAR fans have been almost three months without the roar of engines, but they have been getting a great opening to the season.
The week of racing started with the ARCA Slick Mist 200 this past Saturday, and the Gatorade Duel 150s on Thursday. Tonight competing with the Olympic opening ceremonies is the NextERA Energy Resources 250 truck race. Jason White and Elliot Sadler earned the pole and outside pole positions. On Saturday afternoon, NASCAR fans will watch the Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race. The granddaddy of NASCAR races, the Daytona 500 takes place this Sunday on Valentine’s Day.
Last Saturday, Bobby Gerhart won the ARCA race, but Danica Patrick of Indy Car racing stole the press. This was Patrick’s first stock car race, and she provided some excitement. With only 26 laps left in the race, she spun out and dropped back to 29th place. Danica managed to work her way back through the field to finish sixth, creating a media feeding frenzy.
Sunday morning after the race Danica met with JR Motorsports and GoDaddy.com and made the decision to compete in the Drive4COPD 300 on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. on ESPN2. She will be in the No. 7 car for JR Motorsports co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Eury Jr., and Rick Hendrick.
A lot has been made in the press of Danica Patrick’s debut. Race fans may be getting tired of the hoopla, especially if it is at the expense of their favorite driver. However, Danica competing in the ARCA race pulled in 2.4 million viewers, an increase of 87% over last years ARCA race, making it the most watched ARCA race ever. This was not lost on NASCAR, the Nationwide Series, or ESPN, who televised her practice laps on Wednesday.
NASCAR ran the Gatorade Duel 150 races on Thursday afternoon, which consisted of two races which determined the racing order for Sunday’s Daytona 500, beginning with the third position. (One and two are decided by time trials.) Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne won their respective Duel race with photo finishes.
Sunday’s Daytona 500 promises to be a full day of entertainment. Tim McGraw will treat fans to a pre-race concert. Richard Petty will be in the 2011 Mustang GT pace car to start the race. Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are in first and second positions on the first row. Johnson and Kahne start on the second row in third and fourth position.
Television coverage begins at noon on Fox, and the race begins at 1:00 pm.