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Earnhardt: Patrick talks still early

Dale Earnhardt Jr says conversations between his NASCAR Nationwide Series team and Danica Patrick are still preliminary, amid reports linking the IndyCar star with a part-time season with them in 2010.

JR Motorsports, a team co-owned by the Sprint Cup series star and his boss Rick Hendrick, has held talks with Patrick about running a number of races in NASCAR's second-tier series next year, as confirmed earlier this week by Earnhardt's sister Kelley.

Speaking at Fontana, the 35-year-old driver and owner said he is not aware of any deals already being signed with Patrick and reckons that talks are still preliminary between his sister and the female racer.

He also stated that he has not been involved in the dealings, as he remains focused on his Sprint Cup duties.

"I like Danica a lot," Earnhardt Jr said. "I consider myself friends with her and it's interesting to see her interest in NASCAR. It's interesting for all of us, everybody. If we're a piece of that, if we play a part in that, we'll see down the road.

"Right now, it's just Kelley and her having phone conversations about it and it really hasn't gotten any further than that as far as I know."

Earnhardt Jr spoke highly of Patrick and praised her commitment as a driver, which he considers to be one of her main assets, besides her talent.

"She's made it to the top level of motorsports in open-wheel in North America and any driver in that position has talent," Earnhardt Jr said. "She's very competitive, has an extremely competitive side to her around the race track and in and around her programme, she's really dedicated to it.

"She's dedicated to keeping herself in shape and having every personal advantage she can have. She has high expectations of herself and she has a lot of those intangible values in a racecar driver that are really important that you don't learn.

"You learn how to drive cars, you learn how to go around race tracks, but there's a lot of things inside when it comes to initiative and will power and just passion that, you either have it or you don't have it.", one of the sponsors for JR Motorsports, is also backing Patrick in IndyCar and is believed to be a piece in the puzzle of getting her a drive in NASCAR.

JR Motorsports fields one full-time car in the Nationwide Series, which is currently driver by Brad Keselowski, third in the drivers' standings. Kelly Bires is set to replace Keselowski next season, but the team runs a second car at some races, which has been shared mainly between Earnhardt Jr and Ryan Newman this year.

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