DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- SpeedWeeks 2010 officially began at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, including practice for Saturday's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. But this isn't your father's ARCA race, not with IndyCar regular
Interestingly, earlier in the day,
Patrick's IndyCar nemesis
"I would like to think that I've learned some respect out there and the only way to do that is to get out there and race with them. If somebody does something that I don't like, they have to expect to get something in return. And I have fenders now, so that is pretty exciting."
"I know we are way over a week out from the Daytona 500, so this is big," Patrick said. "I've felt this before and I'm very flattered that I can still be in a position where people are interested in me. I've also been blessed where a lot of people are writing about me and it feeds the system. I'm lucky to be in this position."
The only other driver who came close to matching her crowd was fan favorite
Even though Patrick drives for the JR Motorsports team that Earnhardt owns along with his sister
"I've only talked to Danica once in the last six months," Earnhardt said. "I don't even know how she did today. She is working with Kelley and Tony Jr. and those people who are in contact with her. She don't need too many people in her ear talking to her, giving her a whole bunch of crap to think about. She has been around racing a long time and she is smart enough to know exactly what she had gotten herself involved in. She doesn't need everybody telling her what is good for her. That kind of stuff annoys the crap out of me, when I have six or seven people trying to tell me what is right and what my next move should make.
"She seems to be pretty smart. Just hope we give her a good car, and when she mashes the gas it puts a smile on her face. As long as she is having fun out on the race track, I will enjoy that part of it."
Patrick said she likes oval racing and believes there is less of that on the IndyCar schedule than in past seasons, which seems odd considering she came from a road course background, including spending several years racing in England as a teenager.
"I was so disappointed over the years to see the oval tracks that we've lost in IndyCar," she said.
At one point during her question-and-answer period, an exuberant radio announcer thrust a microphone at her from behind and hit Patrick on the shoulder. She stopped in mid-sentence and said, "Hey, can you not rest that on my shoulder?"
Patrick was able to get her point across without appearing mean-spirited, but she isn't afraid to show some fury, either.
"I've never been afraid to be honest," Patrick said. "I will always be me; I will always be emotional and I will always show a bit of my temper because I really care. When racing goes well, nothing else really matters because it controls your life. It is important for us to have emotions. That's why we watch sports -- we want to see someone happy and we want to see someone mad."
"It's going to be a lot of the feeling that I have," Patrick said. "If I have a great race, maybe I wasn't challenged in some particular way. If I don't finish up front and I came through the day and feel good about what I've learned that might be good enough. It depends on how I feel afterwards."
"We'll announce whether I do it or not on Monday. Nobody is putting pressure on me. I just want to be smart. The Nationwide race at Daytona is the biggest race of the year in this series. There are guys out there that are running for the championship and with all the Cup guys out there, too, it's been recommended that it's not the best idea to be out there in that race. I'm not going to ignore the people that have given me advice."
While Earnhardt knows he will be in the Nationwide race, he offered his opinion on who his teammate should be on Feb. 13.
"There's a part of me that hopes Danica does so well in the ARCA race that she gets to drive, too," Earnhardt said. "I hope that Kelly Bires gets to drive, too. We are in a tough situation financially, and to bring a car down here to run is about $150,000 at its cheapest, and we can't afford to do that. We can't afford to have three teams here, so it's coming down to make the best of the situation."