Danica Patrick

will ease her way into NASCAR by skipping the Nationwide Series opener at Daytona International Speedway in favor of a less-stressful debut 1 week later at California.

The IndyCar star is still working on piecing together a 13-race schedule for JR Motorsports in NASCAR's second-tier series, but announced yesterday she's marked the Feb. 20 race at Auto Club Speedway for her debut.

JR Motorsports also will field a car for Patrick in the Feb. 27 race at Las Vegas.

Although Patrick will make her stock-car debut in the Feb. 6 ARCA opener at Daytona, she will not attempt the Nationwide race. The opener is usually stacked with NASCAR's top talent, and Sprint Cup drivers have won nine of the last 10 Nationwide races at Daytona. The lone exception? Martin Truex Jr., who won in 2005 in JR Motorsports car.

"The race is basically a Cup race, some 30 odd drivers in Cup run in it," she said. "So, is that the right time for me to start or not? You only get one grand opening, so I've heard. We want it to be the right opportunity."


* Penn State is one win away from setting another volleyball record, earning the chance for a third straight national title by beating Hawaii, 23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-18, in the national semifinals in Tampa. The Nittany Lions (37-0) extended their record win streak to 101 and will meet Texas in the championship game tomorrow night.

* The NCAA is accusing Arizona State of failing to control its baseball program. The Arizona Republic reported that the university last month received a notice of the allegations. Coach Pat Murphy announced his resignation last month.

Philly File

* Val Cloud has announced her retirement as Penn's field hockey coach after 15 seasons.