Danica gets ready for first race at tough Pocono Raceway

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With only two practice sessions today to get acclimated further to Pocono Raceway after turning her first laps there in a test session late last month, Danica Patrick is preparing for another learning experience in her first-ever race at the 2.5-mile triangular oval in Pennsylvania.

Patrick will start 30th in tomorrow’s Party in the Poconos 400 after rain washed out qualifying on Friday, and in this morning’s practice sessions, she posted the 24th and 29th-fastest speeds respectively. The good news for her is that she has a pair of past Pocono winners to use as sounding boards in her teammates, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Stewart has won twice there, while Newman scored his lone Pocono win back in 2003.

“To some degree, you just have to learn for yourself what’s going to happen and ultimately what you need,” she said on Friday. “But I definitely have good resources with my teammates and am talking with my crew chief [Tony Gibson] about what to expect and what we need to be looking for and what tends to happen in the race here. So, I’ll be asking those questions.”

Patrick also touched upon the learning curve she’s had to go through during her first full Sprint Cup season. She currently sits 29th in the standings, but while gaining experience is the top priority this season, she insists that her competitive fire hasn’t been dulled in the process.

“It doesn’t stop me from getting mad or wanting more,” said Patrick. “I think that’s just the nature of someone competitive. There are a lot of times that my crew chief wants to remind me that I am doing a good job and that this is the first year, not only in [Sprint] Cup, but my second full time in stock cars. But I have high expectation levels, so I don’t think it’s a bad quality to have.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).