Marco Andretti due for big weekend at Barber

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I’ll take the blame if this turns into a jinx, but I’m expecting big things from Marco Andretti at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend.

Andretti’s consistently been the thorn in the Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing side at the three prior IndyCar races at Barber, even if his final results haven’t shown it.

He led a race-high 58 laps at Barber in 2010 and was unlucky to only finish fifth after qualifying fourth. He followed that with a ninth-to-fourth run in 2011, and was on pace for another top five finish a year ago before his tires faded in the final stint and he dropped to an unrepresentative 11th-place finish.

Andretti has altered his driving style for road and street courses this year to be less aggressive, and not over-driving the corners, but still able to save the tires early enough in a stint to save them toward the end.

It paid dividends at St. Petersburg as Andretti pounced in the final stages to secure a podium finish in third place once Simona de Silvestro’s tires fell off in the dying laps.

“It’s all confidence, confidence with your engineers, but also confidence, your guys need to have that in you,” Andretti said after the race. “Obviously I finished better than wherever the heck I was last year. Hopefully we can be part of this snowball effect that people speak of and we can just keep clicking off a lot of great results.

“Obviously I’ve made my improvements where I need to improve, but sometimes you don’t know why they come. You just got to keep working hard and hopefully it can snowball.”

Andretti did not make a single Firestone Fast Six in 2012, but if the pace is similar to what he has produced at Barber in the past, and as quick as the Andretti Autosport contingent was at St. Petersburg, I think he’ll break through this Saturday. A second straight podium or perhaps his first win on a road or street course since his first at Sonoma in 2006 would not totally surprise, either.

Danica Patrick crashes out of her final Indianapolis 500

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s racing career ended with a heavy impact in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Patrick, who became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 in 2005, lost control of her No. 13 Dallara-Chevrolet and slammed the Turn 2 wall on the 68th lap. She was able to walk to a waiting ambulance, which transported her to the track care center for a routine evaluation.

After qualifying seventh, she will finish 30th in the race, which will be her career worst at the 2.5-mile track. Patrick, who also became the first woman to lead a lap in NASCAR’s premier series in the 2013 Daytona 500, had six top 10s in eight Indy 500 starts, including a best finish of third in 2009.

Patrick wrecked in the final two starts of her career. She finished 35th in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, her final NASCAR start.