This has been a year of firsts for Danica Patrick.
Not only is this her first full year running the entire slate of Nationwide Series races, but she is also making her first trips to Darlington, Talladega and...Eldora?
Yes, that's right. Another first was added earlier this week when it was announced Patrick would be taking part in team owner Tony Stewart's annual "Prelude to the Dream" Late Model charity race June 6 at Eldora Speedway.
"I want to do well, but I realize I have zero experience and I have a lot of other things I need to put my focus into this year, so I'm going to try to go into it with more of an open mind," Patrick said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Prelude to the Dream will mark only the second time Patrick has competed on a dirt track – her first was on a go-kart track located right outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway when she was 14 years old.
"My experience is limited and I'm really going into it with more of an attitude of just having fun, enjoying myself and raising money for hungry kids and take it all in," Patrick said.
Patrick will join Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman, 2000 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte, Kenny Wallace, Aric Almirola, Truck Series rookie of the year contender Ty Dillon and the aforementioned Stewart as drivers who have already committed to running the charity race with proceeds benefitting Feed The Children.
"I'm excited," Stewart said Friday between Sprint Cup practice sessions. "I told her, 'Don't feel like you have to come do this.' She said, 'No, I really want to do this.' I'm excited for her. I don't think it's something that she has had a chance to do very much. It will be fun to get her in an environment that is definitely new to her, for sure."
Added Jeff Gordon: "Those cars are a blast to drive. I don't know how much dirt experience that she has, but it will be an education, for sure."