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William Byron leads Daytona 500 practice on opening day

11 February 2018

He said: "We are excited to have Esports Arena Drive make its debut at the iconic DAYTONA 500, one of the most popular fan events in sports". I was like, 'Man, where was I on that one?' I didn't think of it soon enough. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been doing it.

Of course, with the Daytona 500 still a week away things can change and Patrick admits that her feelings may differ by the time the February 18 race rolls around.

It was Homestead-Miami Speedway last November, and Patrick was announcing her retirement from racing.

Earnhardt's best finishes of the season were career-high 26th place results at Daytona and Indianapolis.

"I really hope that I finish and that I'm hopefully in contention".

On top of that, starting out front means you're less likely to get caught up in big, multi-car wrecks that often start halfway back in the pack - if you can stay there. Stenhouse won two plate races last season, at Talladega in the spring and at Daytona in July. It was Patrick who facilitated sponsorship with GoDaddy, her previous sponsor from 2010-2015 and played a significant role in helping launch her into the national lexicon when the company had her star in multiple Super Bowl commercials. The company is re-partnering with Patrick for the final two races of her career.

"I am so appreciative of everyone at StarCom Racing and [sponsor] VRX for having confidence in me and making this a reality. From a performance standpoint, he's someone who can look after me, but also from a comfort standpoint - I don't have to try to win the Daytona 500 with somebody I never met before", she said. Patrick noted her bus is parked in a different location - she and Stenhouse were always side-by-side in the motorhome lot - but that's the only difference.

"I don't really watch a lot of racing when I'm still racing", Patrick said. "I love coming in the bus because it feels so familiar".

"I knew Derrike [Cope] casually before but I didn't realize how much he knows about race cars".

She's now parked next to Eury and has more than a week to see how she's received in the Cup community.

William Byron leads Daytona 500 practice on opening day