Danica Patrick gets Daytona 500 spot
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Go ahead and pencil Danica Patrick into the Daytona 500 starting lineup.
Stewart Haas Racing has finalized an alliance with Tommy Baldwin Racing that guarantees Patrick a starting spot in the Sprint Cup opener and keeps her No. 10 car on the track for the entire Cup schedule, team owner Tommy Baldwin said on Tuesday.
Patrick will be locked into the Feb. 26 race with the owner points accumulated last season by TBR driver Dave Blaney, who was 33rd. The top 35 in owner points from last season are guaranteed a starting spot in the first five races, meaning Blaney now will have to qualify his way into the 500 field.
Since Patrick is scheduled to compete in only 10 Cup races while participating full-time in the Nationwide Series, TBR driver David Reutimann will drive the remaining 26 races in the 10 car.
The goal is to keep the 10 locked into the top 35 so Patrick will be guaranteed a starting spot for the first five races of 2013 when she runs her first full Cup schedule.
TBR will receive technical and pit crew support as a part of the deal.
"We've been working on this for a while,'' Baldwin told ESPN.com. "Obviously, there were a lot of things we had to work through to make sure we were all on the same page, to make sure we get Danica the most time on the track for 2013 and allow me to show that we're a team to work with."
Baldwin said there were no conflicts with NASCAR or Chevrolet in having Patrick use Hendrick Motorsports engines as all the SHR cars do and having Reutimann use Earnhardt-Childress engines as all TBR cars do.
"We're all Chevrolet,'' Baldwin said. "We're all working toward a primary goal, and that wasn't an issue. Everybody understands what we're trying to do with Chevy and Danica and GoDaddy.com."
Greg Zipadelli will remain the crew chief for Patrick's Cup races. Baldwin said he and Zipadelli will work with Reutimann in the other 26.
Reutimann will not drive another TBR car in the non-Patrick races. Baldwin said this is all about getting Patrick "prepared for 2013."
Patrick said during a recent test at Daytona International Speedway that, despite showing good speed during her first run in a Cup car, it wasn't worth taking a chance on missing her first Cup race by not purchasing points. She said during the recent media tour in Charlotte, N.C., that there's a "real chance'' she could win the 500 with a little luck.
Being guaranteed a starting spot is the first step.
"There's not that many spots [open],'' Patrick said in mid-January. "You've got cars that they'll put everything into just running this race. I've heard they tend to be pretty quick.
"You don't want to take chances. It's not the right time to do that. Everyone wants to get into the race, and I'm sure [sponsor] GoDaddy would like to be sure of that happening. Eliminating as many questions is probably a safe route."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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