The Hot Pass: Danica focused on plan

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Danica Patrick is the center of attention at Daytona, particularly her future plans.

But rather than get lost in buzz, the IRL star's focus this week is solely on making her ARCA debut in Saturday's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200.

On Thursday, she posted the 14th-fastest time out of 47 cars during the second ARCA practice with a lap of 180.484 mph.

Her performance is right in the zone that crew chief Tony Eury Jr. has asked Patrick to aim for as she makes her foray into stock cars.

"If we can finish in the top 15 on Saturday," Eury said. "It will be just like a win."

When Patrick ran 23rd during the first practice, Eury said the team reverted back to the set-up from December's ARCA test and worked to find speed in the car.

Eury hoped to skip Happy Hour on Friday and preserve the car, but since Patrick didn't have an opportunity to draft he expects her to work with veteran Bobby Gerhart to acclimate to conditions. Eury added that the team will likely wait until 30 minutes into the session and have Patrick turn 15 to 30 laps so "she doesn't put too many miles on the motor" but make enough circuits to where she feels at ease.

If Patrick can establish a comfort zone among the ARCA drivers it will help her transition in the Nationwide Series.

"I don't want to put her in a situation that she doesn't feel like she's ready for it," Eury added. "If she feels comfortable, then let's do it. You take the talent in the ARCA garage and then times it by four because that's what she's going to be up against in the Nationwide race with all the Cup drivers."

Patrick is expected to announce on Monday whether she will race in the Nationwide Series event next week.

"Nobody is putting pressure on me, that's the thing," Patrick said. "I feel pretty lucky from that perspective. I just want to be smart. This is the biggest race of the year for everybody and there are guys that are out there for a championship here in Daytona next week in the Nationwide Series. Obviously, there's the challenge of all those Cups guys out there, too.

"It's been recommended that it's not the best idea to start (at Daytona) and I'm not going to ignore the people that have given me advice."

Like Patrick, Eury is reserving judgment until after the ARCA event. Although Eury admits there were concerns when he first accepted the job, things changed after he witnessed Patrick take a few laps.

"You get a sense right away," Eury said. "People can't expect results in the next two weeks, but give her the next six months and she'll prove she belongs. Helping her get to the level she wants to get to is going to be a blast for me."

Insult to injury

Kevin Harvick wasn't feeling well before Clint Bowyer was wrecked practicing the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet on Thursday in preparation for the Bud Shoot Out.

Harvick, who according to Richard Childress Racing representatives is battling flu-like symptoms, missed NASCAR's annual Speedweeks Media Day. Bowyer stepped up in Harvick's absence and was collected in the six-car pile-up which occurred after Denny Hamlin and Martin collided entering Turn 1 40 minutes into the first Bud Shoot Out practice.