Danica Patrick is in the Daytona 500 field, and she didn't even need to turn a lap to get there.
Patrick's Stewart-Haas Racing team has obtained points from Tommy Baldwin Racing to guarantee the driver a spot in the Great American Race, NASCAR.COM has learned. The deal means Patrick will not have to race her way into the event in the 150-mile duel races, and does not risk missing what will be a much-hyped Sprint Cup debut.
Baldwin's No. 36 car, driven last season by Dave Blaney, finished inside the top 35 in owner points and is locked into the first five events of the upcoming campaign. Although the transfer ensures Patrick's No. 10 car a spot in the Daytona 500, it means Blaney will have to get in on speed -- something he did often last season, when Baldwin's car proved especially proficient on restrictor-plate tracks. Blaney's best finish last year was a third at Talladega, and he was at the front near the end of the Daytona 500 before finishing deep in the pack.
Daytona is also a strong track for Patrick, who enjoyed one of her better career finishes there with a 10th-place result in last year's summer Nationwide race. Her Sprint Cup car was also strong in testing earlier this month on the 2.5-mile layout.
Stewart-Haas officials were not immediately available for comment Monday. The Daytona 500 is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Feb. 26.