Danica Patrick prepares for first Brickyard 400

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When Danica Patrick made her Indianapolis 500 debut in 2005, she quickly asserted herself as a contender and could have won the race if not for fuel woes that forced her to slow down in the final laps. Not many are expecting her to have as memorable a run in her first Brickyard 400 this weekend, but the Sprint Cup rookie is still looking forward to returning to Indy.

“I don’t care what I drive around Indy, I love being there,” said Patrick, who finished 35th in last year’s inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I just like everything about it. I like the facility, obviously. And, to me, the special thing about Indy is, obviously, I’ve had great experiences, but it’s about the track.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of car I drive there, I’ve had great experiences, memories. So that’s what I like so much about it. And I love the tradition. The older I get, the more I realize how much history and tradition plays a role in what’s important and what matters and what means the most to you.”

Patrick is aiming to become the first female competitor in Brickyard 400 history this weekend. Up to this point, the only other female that’s attempted to compete in an Cup race at IMS has been Shauna Robinson, who failed to qualify for the 2001 running.

Making the show would be another accomplishment at IMS for Patrick, who was a steady racer in her Indy 500 career. From 2005 to 2011, she notched six Top-10s in seven appearances in the world’s greatest race, and her third-place effort in 2009 stands as the best result for a woman in ‘500’ history.

For now at least, that chapter of her career is over. But Patrick’s respect for Indy is still very much evident.

“I just feel like I’ve had a lot of different experiences here that can help me and, again, it’s just a special place where I feel like from the beginning I’ve always really believed that you have to show this track respect, and it will hopefully show you the respect back,” she said.

“I’ve always thought that and, especially in IndyCar, this place can bite you pretty big. I don’t think it’s too much different in a stock car, to be honest. It’s just a very familiar place.”

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).