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Does Danica Patrick deserve lofty Talladega expectations?

Friday, May. 03, 2013

             The natural assumption is if you did well at Daytona, you must also be set up well for Talladega – similar super-speedways, pack racing under restrictor-plate conditions.

            That’s not a perfect analogy, Danica Patrick countered Friday.

            “I supposed it’s fair to say there should be a little spike in expectations,’’ Patrick said, based on her winning the pole at Daytona in Sprint Cup’s first race, then staying close to the front and finishing eighth. “But you also have to take into consideration on these big superspeedways that there’s a whole lot of luck that comes into it.’’

            Patrick’s recollection from last year in Talladega is “it was more of a pack race than Daytona even. … Obviously this is a wider track than Daytona, so when we start getting four-wide, that is when stuff gets really exciting.’’

            Patrick believes her Indy car experience is more valuable on the superspeedways, since the speeds and tightly grouped cars in restrictor-plate races more resembles open-wheel events:

            “It’s something I probably caught on to quicker than anything in stock-car racing,” she said. “I show up here and it’s just a bit more comfortable.’’

             X-Games guy: Travis Pastrana, driving a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, became a first-time pole winner Friday in the Nationwide Series. Pastrana got into stock cars after a career in the X Games.

            Pastrana was a dirt-bike racer and drove some monster truck-events. He says he got out of extreme sports because he was sick of constantly being injured. Apparently being strapped into a stock car feels a lot safer than doing flips on a dirt bike.

            The question for Pastrana and all the other Nationwide drivers is whether they’ll get in Saturday’s race. The weather report, both for the Nationwide race and Sprint Cup qualifying, is iffy.

             Domestic Dale: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s party-boy days seem to be abating. He’s lost weight on a health-food diet, and now he’s learning to cook.

            Earnhardt has become a fan of the “BBQ Pitmasters” cooking show on TLC (The Learning Channel). He bought a cookbook connected to the show and is planning to cook a brisket to celebrate mother’s day with his mom.

            Earnhardt – formerly of the chicken-wing-and-pizza persuasion – has become a sushi fan. It took some doing, but he’s convinced his mother to give raw fish a try.

             Politicking: NASCAR is letting fans add a driver to the non-points All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 18. In the grand tradition of ballot-box stuffing, Patrick and her boyfriend, fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., created a video for the internet to promote their mutual candidacies for the All-Star slot.

            Beyond the promotional value, there’s a very tangible reason Patrick would like to be included in the All-Star race: It means extra lap time at CMS in preparation for the Coca-Cola 600 a week later.

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