Danica Patrick's Cup debut at Daytona
FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Danica Patrick will compete in 10 Sprint Cup races next season, including the season-opening Daytona 500.
Eight of those races were announced Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Cup car, which she will drive for Stewart Haas Racing, was unveiled Friday with the No. 10. Go-Daddy.com is sponsoring the car for Patrick's Cup races.
"Ten is my favorite number," Patrick said. "It's the number I used when I was racing go karts as a kid, but this is the first time I've gotten to pick my number as a professional. There's a lot of emotion in it for me."
After Daytona, Patrick will race Cup events at Darlington May 12, the Bristol night race on Aug. 25, Atlanta on Sept. 2 and four Chase races -- Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 16, Dover on Sept. 30, Texas on Nov. 4 and Phoenix on Nov. 11. Two other Cup races will be chosen at a later date.
"Darlington will be a handful and I know Atlanta is pretty challenging," Patrick said. "There's a lot I'm worried for. There's going to be mistakes on the learning curve, but to get that out of the way before going to Cup full time is about making the best future possible."
Team owner Tony Stewart said they wanted to make Patrick's Cup schedule as challenging as possible.
"It was about the best opportunity to get her the most experience at some places where she hasn't raced," Stewart said. "A few races into this, she may hate me. But next year is all about learning these places where she will need to run well in the future."
Patrick will race a full Nationwide schedule next year in the No. 7 Chevy for JR Motorsports (Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team) before moving full time to Cup in 2013 with SHR.
Stewart would like to race the No. 10 Chevy full time next year in the 26 races Patrick doesn't run, if he can find additional sponsorship. "We're hoping days like today will spark interest in doing that," Stewart said. "We haven't given up on that. It's our goal to run this car full-time next year."
Bumpier Ride For Patrick?
As she moves full time to NASCAR, Danica Patrick faces trickier cars, rougher racing and a longer, hotter season. It all starts Saturday in Texas. Story
Patrick will have to qualify on speed for the Daytona 500 unless SHR makes a swap with another team for top-35 owner points, which guarantees a spot in each race.
She said they don't have plans to do that at this point. The Daytona 500 has a unique qualifying format. Only the two front row spots make the race on Pole Day. The other spots are determined by two qualifying races.
"She has two teammates (Stewart and Ryan Newman) that will help get her in if that happens," Stewart said.
Her teammates could be drafting partners, but there's no guarantee either of them will be in her qualifying race.
Patrick said she believes her learning curve in Cup will be accelerated by having Stewart to help her.
"I think the real benefit will come in driving for him, being able to ask a lot of questions, get answers and get help," she said. "I think Tony is the best guy possible to do it."
Patrick also thinks it will help her that the 2012 Cup schedule is back-loaded toward the end of the season after she has raced most of the Nationwide season.
"We'll have time to go testing and also do things like that," Patrick said. "I think it's good. Any time you are trying to lead into the next year (2013) with something, you try to do as much as you can at the end of the (2012) year to get ready.
"I think it's a nice schedule that will have plenty of variety. I have a lot of faith in this team and that's why I chose them."
Stewart said they have just started the process of selecting a crew chief for Patrick's Cup races.
"We're trying to find the right fit," Stewart said. "It's still a work in progress."
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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