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Patrick to make Prelude debut

June 05, 2012, Danica Patrick, Special to NASCAR.com, NASCAR.com



Patrick to make Prelude debut

On June 6, I'll compete in the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway in the GoDaddy.com dirt late model and, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what to expect.

From what I understand, the Prelude is a pretty big deal and I've seen the highlights on SportsCenter and SPEED and it looks like a huge event. I'm honored that Tony has extended an invitation to me to be able to participate, and I'm proud that I can be a part of something that has been so successful and raised millions of dollars for charity in previous years. Obviously, our focus this year is to raise as much money as possible for Feed The Children.

Danica debuts


Another race, another debut for Danica Patrick. This week, she takes on her first dirt track at Prelude to the Dream.

I've never been to the legendary Eldora Speedway, but have heard that tens of thousands of fans descend upon this small town filled with corn fields, local farms and a famous half-mile dirt track. The fans began arriving yesterday, and Prelude is just that -- a precursor for the main event, The Dirt Late Model Dream, scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

I'm anxious to drive a dirt late-model, which is about 1,000 pounds lighter than a Sprint Cup Series car, but produces about the same amount of horsepower. These cars are the most popular race cars in the country and some of the most experienced and top-tier late model teams rent their cars to us for the Prelude. My car owner is Jon Henry, who is also an Eldora track champion. I feel very confident that he'll be able to teach me the nuances of Eldora's banking and the lines to gain the most speed.

That said, aside from running a go-kart at a very young age, my dirt track experience is very limited. To make my debut on the banked dirt at Eldora will be challenging to say the least. I have no idea how much grip the track will have, whether drivers can run two or three different grooves or if there are any similarities to pavement racing at all. In NASCAR, we usually have at least two practice sessions of an hour or two each. At the Prelude, it's a typical grassroots racing schedule: two sessions of hot laps for only 10 minutes each and then we are on to qualifying, heat races and the feature. So, it should be an interesting experience to say the least.

As a racer, I want to finish up front every time I get into a car. Tomorrow, I realize as rookie at Eldora, this will be extremely difficult. I plan on taking in every minute of the experience and enjoying it all while remembering that this entire event is about something bigger than each of the participants: it's about charity. My goals are simple -- finish all 40 laps and make sure I have fun. If my presence at the Prelude helps raise even a few more dollars, that will be much more important than my finishing position at the end of the night.

Prelude to the Dream begins at 8 p.m. ET and is available on HBO Pay-Per-View. It can be ordered at www.PreludeToTheDream.org or www.HBO.com. Updates can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @PreludeToDream.