IndyCar could tie record number of season winners in Baltimore

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The IZOD IndyCar Series has the opportunity this weekend in Baltimore to have its 11th different winner in 16 races this season, which would tie a mark set in 2000 and 2001, in the old CART days.

Here’s who has won thus far in the exciting and often unpredictable 2013 season:

  • James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport, St. Petersburg (first career win), Brazil, Iowa
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, Barber, Milwaukee
  • Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Long Beach (first career win)
  • Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology – SH, Indianapolis 500 (first Indianapolis 500 win)
  • Mike Conway, Dale Coyne Racing, Detroit 1
  • Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, Detroit 2 (first career win)
  • Helio Castroneves, Team Penske, Texas
  • Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Pocono, Toronto 1 & 2
  • Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, Mid-Ohio (first career win)
  • Will Power, Team Penske, Sonoma

So, who are the likely candidates to be lucky number 11 and tie that mark this weekend? Here’s some gentlemen (and women) to watch:

  • Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He’s driving too well to have not yet broke his winless drought of late, which dates to Indianapolis 2012 overall and on a road or street course since Toronto of 2011. He’s as fast as ever with four pole positions and has finished third four times this year. He just feels due.
  • Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing. He missed Baltimore in 2011 due to injury and started seventh and finished 17th a year ago. But he has two street course podiums this year (Long Beach and Detroit 1) and has been particularly on form of late.
  • Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon Racing. A double podium in Toronto was needed for both driver and team and he’s been better since the engineering change to Tom Brown. A Firestone Fast Six qualifier at Baltimore a year ago, knows his way around the circuit and a solid upset pick.
  • Simona de Silvestro, KV Racing Technology. You might not think of her off the top but she starred at Baltimore two years ago and wasn’t able to show herself last year with the woefully underpowered Lotus engine. In need of a big weekend beyond the midpack, and with St. Petersburg as her best race this year, she could surprise this weekend.
  • Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He and teammate James Jakes have each had a second-place on a street course this year but I’d peg Rahal a bit higher this weekend as he was woefully unlucky not to win, or podium, after a sensational qualifying performance at Baltimore in 2011. The key as ever for him and the RLL team is nailing the setup off the truck, because far too often in 2013 they’ve been playing catch-up. A few races into working with new engineer Neil Fife, formerly of Dragon, things might be turning around for young Rahal as he has one of his better weekends of the year last weekend in Sonoma.
  • E.J. Viso, Venezuela-Andretti Autosport-HVM. A fringe entry here but Viso’s qualifying efforts earlier this year were very stout. Any chance of a win this weekend would come with a solid run on Saturday.  After a lackluster stretch of races, this sort of feels like a weekend where Viso could pull a proverbial rabbit out of his hat.

What’s next for Danica Patrick after the Indy 500? Dreams, downtime and waffles

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INDIANAPOLIS – When Danica Patrick was a 14-year-old growing up in Roscoe, Illinois, she had a firm idea of what she’d be doing 20 years later.

A reporter from her hometown newspaper recently reminded her of that in a recent interview when he brought a prescient artifact from those teenage years – an essay that she crafted as an up and coming go-kart driver about her racing accomplishments.

“I’m breezing through it, and then at the end, it said, ‘I wanted to race Indy cars,” Patrick, 36, said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I was 14. I told him, ‘See? If this isn’t an example of “Write that shit down,” nothing is.’

“This is manifesting. You have write it down and you have to imagine what you want. So I do that as much as I can.”

Heading into the final start of her career in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 (she will start seventh in her No. 13 Dallara-Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing), Patrick already seems to have a solid idea of the next 20 years — in part, because of having some glimpses into her post-racing life.

There has been plenty of downtime since her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500 three months ago. She has taken vacations (including an India trip to meet the Dalai Lama with boyfriend Aaron Rodgers) and created several new routines on her suddenly free from racing weekends.

“I make waffles on Sundays now,” she said. “That’s pretty fun.  In the summer, there’s like farmers market.  I can’t wait for that.  I mean, there’s going to be probably some new stuff that I don’t know yet.

“The one thing that I am definitely looking forward to less of is less stress.  Last weekend was awesome at the end of it all because it went well with qualifying, but I was nervous for 95% of that weekend. That’s uncomfortable.”

But testing her comfort zone is appealing to Patrick, who has spent most of her adult life testing the boundaries of gender norms in her profession. Though the pressure of race weekends might disappear, her incessant quest for challenges probably will remain.

Now that racing is over, Patrick still has a winery, a clothing line, a cookbook and a fitness manual to promote – and more is on the way.

“I just have a habit for pushing myself to uncomfortable spaces, making them comfortable for me,” she said. “At least just making them comfortable enough to be able to manage.

“As an example, I went bungee jumping a long while back, like 10 years.  I’m super scared of heights.  I’m still scared of heights.  But I just like to know that if I want to do something, I am brave enough and confident enough to do it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not still scared.  That doesn’t mean it’s not still something that’s easy to me afterward. I just like to know I can get past the fear if I have to.

“I’m OK with transitioning into other things, finding a little bit of happiness and joy each day, less colorization of emotions. I’m ready for that.”

So what specifically is on tap? Talk shows? Another book?

Patrick demurs when pressed.

“I think I have definitely big dreams and aspirations for myself, for all my companies, for the kind of emotion I want to have on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a good, easy, happy, calm, joyful, exciting, adventurous life.  If I say I want it, there’s a very good chance that’s what I’ll get.”

In the short-term, there’s hosting an ESPN awards show that will keep her busy through July.

And after that, her schedule will free up just as Green Bay Packers training camp begins for Rodgers, the two-time MVP quarterback.

“I’m thinking I’m going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay,” she said.