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Preview: 55th Running Of The Daytona 500

February 24, 2013 1 comment

Daytona 500

In American sports, there are three single-day sporting events that take precedent over all other forms of entertainment including the Super Bowl, Indianapolis 500 and, the biggest of all today, Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s most respected venue and largest valued race in any season will take place on FOX at 1:29 p.m. as the green flag will be dropped by two-time NFL champion, and recently retired, Ray Lewis.

Headlines have been countless over the last week since Sprint Cup Series rookie Danica Patrick took pole and became the first woman to record the fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR’s premier series. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon will start outside Patrick to start The Great American Race.

The debut of the Generation 6 has been talked about in Speedweeks and has been the most important focus of all teams and media throughout the last week. With the style of the bodies looking like the cars you would see on the showroom floor, teams and manufacturers are happy to see a racy, brand identity machine that brings the stock, back in stockcar racing.

Throughout the races and practices held so far with these new cars, we still don’t know the type of racing we will see. Besides the two-car tandem now being inexistent, we know the pack racing will be back in full-force, but there seems to be new complications with the draft drivers are still trying to figure out.

kyle larsonHaving a pack of 43 cars will be something we all should look forward to in finding out what the racing environment will be like.

After a stunning race, in multiple ways, Saturday in the Nationwide Series, it left double-digits of cars wrecked crossing the finish line and 28 fans injured, some critically. All fans that were taken to the hospitals in the area of Daytona International Speedway were listed as stable this morning and some were released.

Fan safety is an area that is not talked about much when it comes to racing. The unfortunate reality that is motorsports is cars running near 200 miles per hour can become airborne leaving the possibility of flying into the catchfence where debris can become part of the grandstands.

Here is to a successful day where storylines are plentiful during the timeframe of 500 miles on a 2.5-mile high-banked oval. Speeds will be close to 200 mph and competitors will fight inches apart, sometimes three-wide, for the coveted Harley J. Earl Trophy.

danica gordonWill it be a former Daytona 500 champion, with nine of those drivers in the field, to win again? Will it be Tony Stewart to win his first 500 in his 15th try? Drivers to win their first Daytona 500 in their 15th try were Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Michael Waltrip. Will it be Danica Patrick? She will be the only female in the field, and will become the fourth woman driver to compete in the Daytona 500. Or will it be a first time winner?

The unknowns are great for the 55th running of the Daytona 500, and I know I will be glued to my TV for the entirety. Are you ready?

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Danica Patrick, Husband End Marriage

November 20, 2012 Comments off

Danica Patrick and husband will end marriage after seven years.

Former IndyCar Series and now NASCAR driver Danica Patrick shared with her fans Tuesday via Facebook of the ending of her marriage with husband Paul Hospenthal after seven years.

The couple married in 2005 after Hospenthal, a physical therapist, treated Patrick for a non-racing injury. He is 17 years older than 30-year-old Patrick.

“I am sad to inform my fans that after seven years, Paul and I have decided to amicably end our marriage,” Patrick said. “This isn’t easy for either of us, but mutually it has come to this. He has been an important person and friend in my life and that’s how we will remain moving forward.”

Patrick recently completed her first full season on the NASCAR side in the Nationwide Series since leaving IndyCar in 2011.

Monday, Patrick was awarded Most Popular Driver in the Nationwide Series after finishing 10th in points with one pole and four top-10s.

Patrick will race her first full Sprint Cup season in 2013 for Stewart-Haas Racing with Go Daddy as a sponsor.

From the Marbles: What to expect from Danica Patrick

January 25, 2012 Comments off

Danica Patrick talks with the media during Media Tour on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Kyle Busch was the most talked about NASCAR driver in 2011, but his crown will be swept away by Danica Patrick in 2012 as she will attempt her first full season behind the wheel in the Nationwide Series.

Driving for JR Motorsports, Patrick will be maneuvering her way, as comfortably as possible, through the ranks. Piloting the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in Nationwide, she is one of the early contenders to come out of the gates and be successful.

She will be doing double-duty weekends between Nationwide and the Sprint Cup Series, driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, and will be racing in the Daytona 500 in late February. They have announced she will compete in 10 Cup races in 2012, and will forgo the Indianapolis 500 to be in the Coca-Cola 600 in May.

With many tracks on the schedule she hasn’t raced competitively on, she looks for 2012 to be a season of many ups-and-downs through her course of progression.

So what is there to be expected from Patrick in 2012? Let’s take a look-see …

First, she will succeed this season. Maybe not to the degree that some would love to watch, but success can be measured in many terms. She drives for one of the top-tier organizations in the Nationwide Series in JR Motorsports, and will be more comfortable than ever behind the lead of Tony Eury, Jr.

Danica Patrick and Tony Eury, Jr. will begin their third season together in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season. (All Left Turns)

One top-five and three top-10s in 25 races may not be the success people expected from Patrick over her past two seasons. Or maybe it was for some fans. However, entering her third season behind the wheel, her average finish of 17.4 in 2011 will work its way down over the course of this season.

It’ll never be expected she be a favorite at any racetrack in 2012, but there are tracks that are “winnable.” I do believe she will win a race this season in the Nationwide Series. It will not come on a track where she is competing the double-duty workload, but to count her out in the equipment she races with is hard to argue.

She will not be a title contender in 2012. There are many issues with her learning curve that will halt her chances to become a champion. The road courses, tracks she has not raced on and other racing incidents she will encounter will be too much of a deficit to overcome when it comes to other competitors such as Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson.

Experience is a word fans will hear a lot about Patrick this season. Leading laps, finishing races and capturing as many positions as possible toward the end of the race is what needs to be expected from her. Her fourth place finish at Las Vegas in 2011 was the highlight of her season where she will need to build momentum from. Having consistent finishes without issues on pit road, entering or exiting, accidents or altercations with other drivers will allow Patrick to have a successful year she can build from in 2013 and beyond.

If Patrick will “make” it in NASCAR, success will be determined by winning races.

For today, tomorrow and 2012, Patrick and Danica-mania will enjoy the life in NASCAR, looking toward the future starting at Daytona.

From the Marbles: Does NASCAR need Danica?

September 1, 2011 Comments off

Danica Patrick is one of the fully sponsored cars when she tours in the Nationwide Series while full-time drivers are not. Credit: Yahoo! Sports

The questions NASCAR receives from reporters, fans and teams vary on all sorts of topics; however, the buzz in the garage is all about the highly marketable, but also driver Danica Patrick.

Patrick will run full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2012 for JR Motorsports in the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet.

The question does come to NASCAR whether or not the sport needs Patrick?

They obviously do, especially, in the Nationwide Series. For a series to have a points leader, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, who could be an upcoming star in the top level run most of the season unsponsored is a sign something needs to help it.

Patrick is a markets’ dream.  She has power in the marketing field like few others in sports today. She has her own brand, in a way, as does Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.  So, next season could be a large turnaround for NASCAR and the Nationwide Series.

Not only will Patrick be driving for a top team with a big name sponsor, but also, she will be running near the front of the leaderboard. Possibly a run at the championship…

Danica will become a full-time Nationwide Series driver in 2012 for JR Motorsports. Credit: Berkmontnews.com

Wait, that’s a whole different topic.

Having her near the front will help the series with the marketing/sponsor slump it is in now. TV ratings will be much higher next year and companies will want their name near, if not on, Patrick.

Patrick’s first race in the Nationwide Series in 2010 was the series’ highest TV rating in years. It also nearly tripled the rating of any race the series had that season.  Plenty of eyes will be watching her every move and she will be talked about more than any other driver in the field.

She has the wheel in her hand now to turn the sport anyway she wants. If she runs competitively, she can bring the sport as a whole out of the sponsor slump that is affecting race teams. If she doesn’t run competitively, the sport will be left where it has been over the past few years.

More race drivers will struggle to find sponsorship such as Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.  The decline in sponsorships has been sharp, and when previous champions of the sport are struggling to sell races and losing sponsors who have been in the sport for over a decade.

At the end of the day, Patrick will need to continue to improve over the rest of this year as she looks toward a much longer schedule during the transition from the IndyCar Series to NASCAR.

Experience is needed and will come with more seat time. The determination and grit is there to succeed.

Many open-wheel drivers have come and failed, but Patrick has what most lost: sponsorship.

Seeing the stars aligning for Danica toward a first Sprint Cup race

March 10, 2011 Comments off

Danica Patrick's No. 7 Go Daddy Chevrolet sits after the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Credit: celebritymagz.com

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has talked about moving JR Motorsports to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series if the stars aligned whether it was him behind the wheel or Danica Patrick.

Patrick finished a career high 4th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday by nearly running the car out of fuel. By doing so, she etched herself into another racing record book as the highest finishing woman in a national NASCAR event that stood since 1949 by Sara Christian.

After the first three races, Patrick has improved drastically over the previous year. At Daytona she ran 14th, an unexpected 17th at Phoenix and then 4th at Las Vegas.

Before Danica Mania starts shooting fireworks and celebrating, they should understand what improvements need to be made before the jump to the Cup Series is discussed.

Consistency.

Learning to drive stockcars, coming from open-wheel backgrounds, has been beaten into our heads for years that it does not happen overnight. She will have her up and down races where she may struggle with the track, car or drivers around her.

Producing top-25 finishes is the consistency she needs when she switches from the IZOD IndyCar Series to NASCAR over the next eight months.  With the equipment supplied by JR Motorsports, Patrick will be capable of running inside the top-15 every time she sets behind the wheel of the No. 7 Go Daddy Chevrolet.

If consistency is shown over the next three months, it is possible Danica will drive at least one Sprint Cup race in 2011.

The question is where will she make the attempt?

Of course the answer is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400.

There is not a better place for her to start her career in the Cup Series than the speedway she first set a record in IndyCar being the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500. It is likely after the 2011 Indianapolis 500, she will have driven over 3,000 miles in the prestigious event.

If the stars aligned, it could be fitting for Go Daddy to sponsor her in a car provided by JR Motorsports with a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports.  Since Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Go Daddy.com Chevrolet, will be sponsored by Quaker State at the Brickyard, it opens up the possibility.

She would need to qualify the car on speed, but with the experience and team she would have could set up for a fitting weekend.

Luckily for her, the IndyCar Series has an off week the weekend of the Brickyard, allowing the possibility of something to come.

Call me crazy, but I am a part of Danica-mania.

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