Danica Patrick takes actors Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum on a mild, not so wild ride at Pocono

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Actors Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were grand marshals and gave the command to start engines for Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.

They also were there to promote the June 13 opening of their new movie, “22 Jump Street,” the sequel to “21 Jump Street” which came out a couple years ago.

But their trip to Pocono may have yielded a potential storyline for yet another sequel (23 Jump Street?), where Tatum and Hill get so scared riding along with NASCAR star Danica Patrick in a pace car ride that they want to jump out of the car.

No, Patrick did nothing wrong. It’s just that the supposedly he-man actors wound up being, shall we say, skittish at the very least while Patrick motored around the 2.5-mile tri-oval at around 140 mph.

“My left ear is ringing from Jonah screaming in the backseat,” Tatum said afterward, according to a story by the Associated Press.

Tatum, meanwhile, had a few great impromptu lines himself.

“On a scale of 1 to 10,” Tatum asked Patrick, “how much are you allowed to scare us?”

After Patrick told the Hollywood duo that she’d keep the speed of the Chevrolet SS pace car to 140 mph, rather than the 180 mph-plus she’d do a few hours later in her own race car, Tatum encouraged her to “just break the car. It would be a good story.”

Patrick almost took Tatum up on his suggestion – but then had second thoughts in more than one way.

“If we wore helmets, I’d feel a lot more safe,” Patrick said with a laugh. “If I crash with you guys in it and something happens to us, then I’ll go down as the worst driver ever.”

Her job of chauffering around the two stars finally over a few laps later, Patrick and her newly-made friends bantered a bit before she prepared to climb into her car while Tatum and Hill prepared for their grand marshal duties.

But given Hill’s reaction while Patrick motored around Pocono, she couldn’t help but ask if he watches NASCAR on a regular basis.

To that, Hill said, “I don’t watch it, but I’m going to start now.”

I’m telling you, there’s a script to be had here. Maybe two actors need to get into a car chase trying to catch the bad guys, but instead of doing the driving themselves, they have Danica behind the wheel.

Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne