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    Danica Patrick
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    Tuesday, October 26, 2010 11:04 AM
                                                                                                        Posted by ZACK      
                                   While Danica Patrick is reportedly in the final stages of finalizing a deal to move
                                   full time to NASCAR in 2012, many questions still remain about her racing
                                   future if she was to complete the transition to stock cars from the IZOD ...


    Danica Patrick
    Tuesday, October 26, 2010 11:04 AM
                                                                                                        Posted by ZACK
                                                                By Nick BrombergWhile Danica Patrick is reportedly
    in the final stages of finalizing a deal to move full time to NASCAR in 2012, many questions still remain
    about her racing future if she was to complete the transition to stock cars from the IZOD IndyCar Series.

    Currently, Patrick is running a limited schedule for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team in the
    Nationwide Series. When asked prior to the Brickyard 400 about Patrick making the full-time move,
    Earnhardt said that he had a good feeling about the contract negotiations.

    "I feel confident that she's content where she is and happy with what we're doing," Earnhardt said. "I think
    things are looking positive for us to put something together."

    JR Motorsports is affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports, but Junior has shown no interest (at least not yet) in
    fielding a Cup team. Hendrick is at the four-car limit — Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt and Kasey
    Kahne (starting in 2012) — so it can't field another car. That leaves Stewart-Haas Racing which, according to
    The Associated Press report, could field a car for Patrick on a limited basis in 2012.

    "To the best of my knowledge, I haven't heard that she's doing anything in the Cup Series yet," Stewart said.
    "She's learning in the Nationwide deal."

    He also said "anybody that's got a Cup team that would have the availability would jump at the chance to do
    something with her. Obviously she is a great talent. … I hope we [hear from her]. You would be crazy not to
    entertain an offer like that and an opportunity for her to drive a race car for you."

    When asked if he was going to field a third car in 2012, Stewart hinted it wasn't likely, saying things would
    have to already be in place if he was to expand his organization to three cars next season. Since there's a
    technical relationship already in place between Hendrick and SHR, Hendrick could prep the car and provide
    the pit crew from her Nationwide team. While it wouldn't be that simple — contract details would have to be
    sorted out — prepping a third car for a few races for Patrick is far from impossible.

    Patrick has been a longtime spokesperson for GoDaddy, a web-hosting company, and GoDaddy founder
    Bob Parsons has been adamant that the company would follow Patrick wherever she goes.

    And it just so happens that Farmer's Insurance will be taking over the primary sponsorship role on Kahne's
    No. 5 in 2012. GoDaddy has been a co-primary for Mark Martin in the No. 5 for the past two seasons.

    Besides, Patrick is the most marketable driver in the continent without the surname of Earnhardt. She'd have
    sponsorship if the debt ceiling deal didn't happen and the world economy crashed.

    If Patrick runs a limited Sprint Cup schedule in 2012, don't be surprised to see her run the Daytona 500
    given her Nationwide experience and the sponsorship exposure that the crown jewel of the NASCAR season

    Patrick's run three times at Daytona in the Nationwide Series and has improved every time, including when
she battled for the lead late in the July race before crashing. Maybe her partnership with Stewart in the two-
car tango was a sign of things to come?

Restrictor plate racing is probably the most comparable style of racing in NASCAR to the IndyCar Series, so
the four restrictor plate Cup races are possible. Add in an intermediate track or two (the Coca-Cola 600?)
and a short track later in the season (the Bristol night race?) and Patrick's at the seven races she can run
without losing her Rookie of the Year eligibility in 2013.

Yes. As we said before, no one is going anywhere at Hendrick Motorsports until Jeff Gordon retires, and
given Gordon's attitude and performance, that's not happening anytime soon.

By Jay BusbeeAs we draw within sight of the Chase, let's take a look back at how the season has gone so
far for NASCAR's top teams. We continue with the team whose commercial jingles are like a virus. (Napa

High point: Um ... pass? It's been a big step back this year for a team that should have two outside Chase
competitors. But neither Reutimann nor Truex has done much of note this year. On the plus side, Waltrip had
a bestselling book, so there's that.

Low point: It started at Daytona, when Waltrip kicked off the season with a 14-car wreck that took out
Reutimann. It continued with a crew chief swap for Truex, and even Waltrip's plans to bring aboard Travis
Pastrana, albeit in the Nationwide series, vaporized. 2012 can't get here fast enough for the MWR boys.

Outlook for the Chase and beyond: N/A. Barring a miracle, there's no way either Truex or Reutimann makes
the Chase. And for two guys who were within sight of the Chase recently, it's a state of affairs that should
have the outwardly affable Waltrip looking for a little know-how of his own.

By Jay BusbeeAs we draw within sight of the Chase, let's take a look back at how the season has gone so
far for NASCAR's top teams. We continue with Roush Fenway Racing, perhaps the sport's biggest can-they-
or-can't-they question mark.

Drivers: Carl Edwards (currently 1st in points), Matt Kenseth (currently 5th), Greg Biffle (currently 13th), David
Ragan (currently 16th).

High point: Having one of your drivers at the top of the standings for most of the season could be considered
a season-long high point, but really, you've got to hand it to David Ragan for his performance at Daytona in
July. Coming back to the legendary track for the first time since his final-restart miscue at the Daytona 500
that may have cost him the race, Ragan managed to pull off a win and cool the "on-the-hot-seat" talk that's
dogged him for most of the last few years. Perhaps he's not just keeping Trevor Bayne's seat warm after all.

Low point: Yet to come. Sure, Biffle hasn't performed up to expectations, but other than that, it's been a fine
year so far for Roush Fenway. Edwards is leading in the points, Kenseth is a dark-horse championship
contender, and Ragan has exceeded all expectations. But if Edwards decides to jump teams, that'll be a low
point for RFR not just now, but for years to come.

Outlook for the Chase and beyond: Edwards is the odds-on favorite for the championship at this moment,
though Jimmie Johnson has closed that gap. Kenseth is a lock to get in by virtue of his two wins (more than
he had during his championship year, you may recall). Biffle has work to do; a single win would put him in
contention, but he hasn't run at winning speeds in months. Ragan is a solid choice for the wild card, though
he'll need to be aware of others jumping up to snag his spot from his hands.

By Geoffrey MillerIf the stands are half empty at Indianapolis, did they really have a race there? Also, how fair
is it that rules dictate restart position — not actually-earned track position? Jump in to that and more in this
week's NASCAR temperature gauge. Mind you, it might be broke from that dag-blasted hot weekend in

NOT: Elliott Sadler wrecked in qualifying for Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series finale at Lucas Oil
Raceway and had to start in the back for the 200-lap race. Being the shortest race on the Nationwide
calendar, his odds of contending looked slim.

Incredibly, Sadler managed to advance and spend 164 of 204 laps inside the top 15, making a race-high 36
green-flag passes. By Lap 120, Sadler was in the top 5.

A caution that came out on Lap 190 for Trevor Bayne's blown engine seemed to put Sadler, with a car
capable of fast laps in traffic, in good position to complete his storybook run to the front. Only Ricky
Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier were ahead.

Then, Allgaier's car caught fire during the caution laps and the No. 31 pulled off track after the field had
moved into double-file restart order. Instead of then moving Sadler (in third) to take over Allgaier's vacated
second spot, NASCAR rules mandated that Brad Keselowski (in fourth, originally next to Sadler) pull ahead
to take the outside front row, while Sadler remained third behind Stenhouse. The moved proved fortuitous for
Keselowski, as he wrestled the lead from Stenhouse and held on for the win. Sadler, irritated on the radio
about the rule, was later collected in an accident. He finished 16th.

The reason why Keselowski was given the second spot over Sadler is a clear one on paper: NASCAR would
have quite a time trying to get each and every row to swap grooves and position when a car pulls off after the
double-file restart ordering had taken place. It would be a mess that would create longer caution periods
and less green-flag racing, and would additionally create opportunities for teams to prolong those caution
periods in their interest.

The rule, if you're wondering, was simply adopted from how NASCAR starts races in the case of a car that
has to drop to the back. Theoretically (and for example) if the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th-place cars all had issues
that forced them to the rear for the start of a race, the 9th-place car would start on the front row. The rule is in
place across all three NASCAR national divisions, including Sprint Cup.

What, then, can be done to make things a bit more fair for folks like Elliott Sadler? It's clear as day that his
chance for a win was hurt by Keselowski's advance.

To me, it's simple. Establish an addition to the current rule that says in the final 10-percent of a race's
distance, the first four rows of the double-file restart must match the correct running order. NASCAR could
also warn teams that any shenanigans that try to prolong a caution by teammates on track could lead to big

By Nick BrombergShane Hmiel is returning to the USAC Series as an owner less than a year after he was
seriously injured during a qualifying crash.

Hmiel, who is now in a wheelchair, will also have his foray into the ownership side documented by the reality
series "3 Wide Life." (The founder of 3 Wide Life, Steve Pruett, will provide financial support for the team.)

"Racing is the only way of life for me," Hmiel said in a release. "I need to stay involved and the only way to do
that due to my injuries is to become a team owner. With this new opportunity I am excited to be able to give
the next great young up and comer American racer their shot. All this would not be possible without the
continued support of Mr. Pruett, 3 Wide Life, and RW Motorsports."

USAC driver Levi Jones will drive for Hmiel for the remainder of the 2011 schedule, and in 2012 Hmiel's
RW56 Motorsports team will expand to two cars, the second driver coming from a driver search that will be
also documented by the show.

Hmiel made 119 NASCAR starts, including seven in the Sprint Cup Series, and won a Camping World Truck
Series race in 2004. In 2006, Hmiel was suspended for life from NASCAR for failing a third drug test. In
2010, after NASCAR introduced new substance abuse guidelines, Hmiel said that NASCAR's new plan
would have helped him seek treatment sooner.

By Jay HartTime for Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and
who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent
history and general gut feelings. Here's how we see it coming off the Brickyard 400:

1. Carl Edwards. You wonder why Carl would even consider leaving Roush Fenway, what with how well he's
running and all, but then you hear rumors that Joe Gibbs is offering him $18 million, including a $10 million
signing bonus and it all makes sense. Yeah, Carl wants a championship bad, but that kind of money talks
— championship or not. Last week's ranking:

2. Matt Kenseth. The silent assassin keeps creeping his way into the championship mix. The equivalent of
the bend-but-don't-break defense, Kenseth is wholly unspectacular but produces the kind of consistency that
could have him hoisting the Cup trophy at the end of the season. Last week's ranking:

3. Jeff Gordon. He put on a happy face, seemingly ecstatic at a second-place finish at Indy, but he had to go
home a little ticked that Paul Freaking Menard snagged Brickyard win No. 5 from him. Yeah, Gordon's
rounding into championship form, but he won't have too many more opportunities to win at Indy like he did
Sunday. Last week's ranking:

4. Kurt Busch. In a pre-race interview with ESPN, Kyle Busch threw brother Kurt under the bus when he
basically said all that hatred from fans, well, he inherited from Kurt. Does this mean that Kyle and Dale
Earnhardt Jr. actually do have something in common? Last week's ranking:

5. Jimmie Johnson. Was Chad Knaus serious Sunday when he complained about other crew chiefs
throwing Hail Marys on pit road to try to win the race? Isn't this the guy who's mastered zagging when
everyone else zigs? More and more, sounds like the competition is getting inside Team 48's head. Last
week's ranking:

6. Kyle Busch. Rowdy was not a factor at any point Sunday, yet came home 10th. Sure he complained, but he
took stock and hung in. That's exactly the kind of result he needs to win a championship and completely tick
off the whole of the NASCAR world. Last week's ranking:

7. Kevin Harvick. Not much to say here about Harvick's run at Indy, so we'll borrow two of DeLana Harvick's
post-race tweets: "trying to give @KevinHarvick ample time to watch his dvr'd f1 race. i yelled out who won
last week just to piss him off. i refrained tonight" …  10 minutes later: apparently i can't resist being an
a**hole... came back to @KevinHarvick STILL watching f1 and yelled out jenson button! ooppsss ;). Last
week's ranking:

8. Ryan Newman. Didn't mention Newman once in our race day chat, so it took me awhile to find his name
on the results sheet. Kept looking in the 20s and 30s. Wasn't there. Finally found it in 12th. Twelfth? Who
does this guy think he is, Matt Kenseth? Last week's ranking:

9. Tony Stewart. For a second there, it looked like Smoke might pull of the most improbably victory of his life.
Still, a sixth-place finish after hitting the wall and getting slapped with a pass-through penalty for running over
the commitment cone is a moral victory. Unfortunately, moral victories don't count toward the Chase wild
card. Last week's ranking:

10. Denny Hamlin. Those engine issues Joe Gibbs Racing had early in the season appear to be back.
Hamlin, who had to change his engine at Kentucky a few weeks ago, had his engine blow during practice at
Indy, which is better than during the race, but it still has to leave him wondering about reliability come Chase
time. Last week's ranking:

11. Brad Keselowski You get the feeling that Bradski will win a second race between now and Richmond, yet
still miss the Chase. That's what happens when you take one step forward and two steps back, which is
pretty much what he's done since winning at Kansas in June. But we did love his Twitter press conference.
Very 2011. Last week's ranking:

12. Kasey Kahne: Put this in the nobody-deserves-to-be-here category, but since we have to round the
rankings out with 12, it goes to Kahne, who's kind of like a sparkler: produces a lot of excitement early, then
just fizzles out. He did lead the most laps at Indy, but once again has nothing to show for it. Last week's

Lucky Dog: Paul Menard, who is now your clubhouse leader for the second wildcard spot. Dude's had two
top 5s since April and if the Chase were to start today, he'd be in. Welcome to NASCAR in 2011.

DNF: Juan Pablo Montoya, and not just for coming in 28th, but for apologizing to Jimmie Johnson while Five-
time was in the shower, then pointing out Johnson was naked.

Dropping out of the rankings: Joey Logano, who has to be wondering about his future with rumors swirling
about Carl Edwards joining JGR, and David Ragan, who no longer holds one of the two wildcard berths.

By Jay BusbeeAs we draw within sight of the Chase, let's take a look back at how the season has gone so
far for NASCAR's top teams. We continue with Hendrick Motorsports, still the unquestioned big dog in the

Drivers: Jimmie Johnson (currently 2nd in the standings), Jeff Gordon (currently 7th), Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(currently 10th), Mark Martin (currently 18th)

High point: Probably Talladega, in which all four Hendrick cars were in the hunt for the win right into the final
turn. (Well, two were in the hunt and two were pushing, but let's not get technical.) It was a perfect display of
team strategy and unity that reminded everyone who's still in charge in NASCAR until further notice.

Low point: The last six weeks for Junior, which have seen him fall from third to 10th and on the verge of
missing the Chase, cratering when Junior Nation believed Johnson let donw Earnhardt at Daytona in July.
Martin's never really gotten started, Gordon has settled down, and the "problems" that Johnson is having
with his crew haven't kept him from the second-place slot in the standings.

Outlook for the Chase and beyond: Gordon's a lock, and unless Johnson decides to skip three races, he's in
too. Martin is out without a Hail-Mary win surge. Junior is, as always, the X-factor; he could race his way in
just by holding serve and staying in the 10th position, but even one slip and he's gone; it'd be an
ignominious end to one of his best seasons ever if he ended up 11th and the final Chase slots went to Paul
Menard and David Ragan.

Once in the Chase? It's Johnson's title, and the winner's going to have to go over, around or through the 48
to get the Cup. Gordon is looking impressively consistent in a way he wasn't earlier this year, and could have
a legitimate shot at the Cup if he gets a few breaks. Junior will need more mojo and luck than he's had all
year long.

By Jay BusbeeAs we draw within sight of the Chase, let's take a look back at how the season has gone so
far for NASCAR's top teams. We begin with Stewart-Haas Racing, a two-car outfit that's seen plenty of
success in its first few years of existence.

Drivers: Tony Stewart (owner, driver of the No. 14, currently 9th in the standings), Ryan Newman (driver of the
No. 39, currently 8th).

High point: Loudon, without a doubt. The team qualified 1-2 to start and ended up 1-2 to finish. It was a
satisfying end to what had been an extremely frustrating few weeks for Newman and few months for Stewart.

Low point: Infineon, where Stewart got cranky with Brian Vickers' blocking style and punted him, only to end
up tail-first atop a tire wall when Vickers exacted revenge. Stewart tried to play garage enforcer, but ended up
looking more like a cranky old coot frustrated by all these young punks. Also, when Newman and Juan Pablo
Montoya may or may not have been secretly fined by NASCAR, nobody really came out looking very good.

Outlook for the Chase and beyond: Both Stewart and Newman are in line for the Chase, with Newman and
his one win holding the greater edge. Stewart is getting closer to breaking through with his customary warm-
weather win, but until he does it's going to be a nerve-wracking time in the 14's pit box. Once they get into the
Chase, both are outside shots at best, though with good qualifying they can avoid some of the wrecks that
will destroy some of the Chase hopes of others. A championship for Stewart-Haas this year is a remote
possibility, but it's still a possibility, which isn't bad for an owner-driver team.

By Geoffrey MillerPaul Menard has never garnered incredible respect in many NASCAR circles. The reasons
for that aren't hard to see, as Menard has never had much success in NASCAR competition. He's also had
the benefit of a guaranteed sponsor, thanks to his father, John, owner of the midwestern home improvement
chain Menards.

So when legendary team owner Richard Childress signed up Menard (with Menards as a sponsor) to race
as a fourth team at Richard Childress Racing in 2011, eyebrows were raised and murmurs rumbled. How
could Childress, a team with championship capabilities, sign a driver that had just seven career top 10s to
his name and never a finish above 23rd in the Sprint Cup point standings?

Those questions may still linger, but Menard did a lot of good in elevating his racing brand Sunday at the
venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Menard, never a winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, scored his first victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400
— one of NASCAR's most prestigious races — by holding off Brickyard tour de force and NASCAR champion
Jeff Gordon in some dramatic closing laps. The win proved all the more sweet for Menard after his father, a
longtime IndyCar owner, had come up empty multiple times in the Indianapolis 500.

"Man, I've been coming here for a long, long time, but not nearly as long as my dad," said Paul Menard, who
didn't miss an Indianapolis 500 between 1989 and 2003. "To be the first one after all those years of trying to
win him a race at Indy, [this is] very special."

By Nick BrombergWith his win in Sunday's Brickyard 400, Paul Menard added himself to a suddenly crowded
field vying for the two wild card berths to the 2011 Chase.

Entering the Coke Zero 400 at the beginning of July, only one driver — Denny Hamlin — was between 11th
and 20th in the points standings with a win. Now, leaving the Brickyard at the end of July, there are three
drivers from 11th-20th with a win and a fourth, Brad Keselowski, on the cusp in 21st place.

Hamlin, who won at Michigan, is 11th, 19 points outside the top 10. Menard jumped up to 14th and David
Ragan, who won at Daytona, is 16th, seven points behind Menard. (Keselowski is 16 points out of the top 20
and 35 points behind Ragan.)

The two drivers with the most wins from 11th-20th in the points standings entering the Chase get in via the
wild card. If more than two drivers have the same amount of wins, the two highest in the points standings
qualify for the Chase, meaning that Hamlin and Menard are in. For now.

Here's a look at how the four drivers with wins fare at the six tracks before the Chase begin. Let's also look at
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Why Junior? Well, after his 16th-place finish at the Brickyard, he's now 10th in the
standings, just 19 points ahead of Hamlin.

If we're going to go by the numbers, it seems Hamlin is a near lock for the Chase, especially if he gets a win
at Pocono or Richmond. And while past history likes Junior's chances, he's fallen from third to 10th in the
past six races and is in danger of losing 10th to Hamlin. If that happens, he'll need a win.
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