A re-vamped JR Motorsports held a press conference today to showcase their Nationwide team. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was joined by co-owners Kelley Earnhardt and Tony Eury Jr. Driver of the No. 7, Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 88; Kelly Bires and Tony Eury Sr. were also present.
As the questions began to flow, it was soon obvious that most of the media were there for one reason. In an off season with little NASCAR news, Danica Patrick has given the racing world something to talk about.
Patrick handled the media smoothly but didn’t provide much new information. Her transition to NASCAR and the Nationwide Series is apparently still a work in progress and many of the details are yet to be determined.
In her opening statement, Kelley Earnhardt stated that Danica will run up to thirteen races. Her first race will be the ARCA race on Feb. 6, 2010 at Daytona. Her Nationwide debut will probably be at Fontana on Feb. 20 followed by Las Vegas on Feb. 27.
While many speculated that she would be entered into the season opener NW race at Daytona, that scenario seems more and more unlikely.
“The Daytona race is basically a Cup race, some 30-odd drivers in Cup run in it,” Patrick said. “So, is that the right time for me to start or not? You only get one grand opening, so I've heard. We want it to be the right opportunity.”
It was also announced that the 88 car with JRM newcomer Kelly Bires, will run a full season, even though they’re still looking for more sponsorship. Bires replaces Brad Keselowski who will be making the switch to Sprint Cup with Penske Racing in 2010.
Tony Eury Sr., crew chief of the 88, looks for another strong run next season with his new driver.
“We hope Bires picks up right where Brad left off, other than the Denny Hamlin part," joked Eury Sr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed relaxed and comfortable as most of the spotlight was centered on Danica Patrick.
When asked about his dual role as owner/driver, he explained that most of the day to day running of the company fell on his sister, Kelley, and he could choose how involved he wanted to be.
His most telling comment was simple and to the point.
“I was born to be a driver.”
Few new facts were revealed today and one might wonder if this is a ploy to keep the media interested, or simply an untested driver cautiously testing the waters.
Only one thing is certain. As the countdown to 2010 continues, all eyes will be focused on Danica Patrick and JR Motorsports.
Until then, we’re all along for the ride as we eagerly anticipate another new season in NASCAR.