Amanda Vincent, NASCAR correspondent
When the NASCAR Nationwide Series takes the green flag Friday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway for the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200, there'll be no shortage of marquee names in the race field. Of course, there'll be Sprint Cup Series regulars like Kasey Kahne in the No. 38 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet, Joey Logano in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Denny Hamlin in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kurt Busch in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota and Brad Keselowski behind the wheel of the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge on hand, but there'll also be an additional couple of big names on the starting grid. It's a given that Danica Patrick will pilot the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, as she's competing in the series full-time this year. She'll be joined in the race lineup by X-Games legend Travis Pastrana, who'll climb into the No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota for the event.
Both drivers will be making their first NASCAR national series starts at Darlington on Friday. Patrick does, however, have quite a bit more experience in Nationwide racing than Pastrana, though. Still, she's not taking Darlington's reputation as the "Lady in Black" and the track "too tough to tame" lightly.
"I know it is going to be hard, and I know there will be some frustrating moments and that I am probably going to feel a little embarrassed. But I am there to get my Darlington stripes and move along," Patrick said.
Pastrana, who only has one Nationwide Series start under his belt, coming a couple of weekends ago at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, is trying to shorten his learning curve a little bit, at least when it comes to attempting to tame Darlington. He recently pumped NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson for advice on getting around the South Carolina track.
"I'm still learning the sport of NASCAR, so to get some great advice from a legend like Mr. Pearson will be extremely beneficial for me when I get to Darlington," Pastrana said.
If a newcomer is seeking advice for how to do well at Darlington, Pearson is a great person to seek out. After all, he is the all-time winingest driver at the track, with 10 trips to victory lane. Sure, those races were won at the Sprint Cup level, but Darlington is Darlington.
One driver Patrick and Pastrana won't have to worry about is the defending winner of the race, Kyle Busch. The 2009 series champion will still be involved in Nationwide competition on Friday night, but only as an owner, not a driver. As mentioned earlier, his brother, Kurt Busch, will be behind the wheel of the No. 54 KBM entry.