What to watch for: IndyCar Race 1 at Houston (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN & Live Extra)

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BRING YOUR MOUTHGUARDS

Course designers have ground down the Turn 1 bump that wreaked havoc during last year’s Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston weekend, along with a few other spots. But even with the fixes, they’re still racing on a parking lot and this rough, 1.7-mile course is still tough to navigate. Keep an eye on the Turn 2 chicane, where Will Power and Jack Hawksworth got air over the curbs in yesterday’s practice session. Some overnight grinding took place on said curbs, but we’ll have to see if it helps matters.

BEAT THE HEAT

Double-headers are always a grind for the teams, and when you throw in Houston’s summer heat and humidity, things only get more difficult. Temperatures are expected to be around the high 80s and low 90s for today’s 90-lap race, and tomorrow’s 90-lapper has conditions looking about the same. Surely, some of the drivers are already hoping that this event goes to a night-time format in 2015.

POWER SURGE?

Will Power is your current points leader, but is starting 18th in this afternoon’s Race 1. However, this shouldn’t faze the Aussie, who took Race 1 of the Detroit doubleheader after starting 16th and finished second in Detroit Race 2 after getting penalized early for avoidable contact. Houston is a bit bumpier and more compact than Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, though. That could hinder Power’s ability to drive through the field.

ANOTHER LOOK AT LUCA

Luca Filippi has carried a stout pace in Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s second car. He was fourth overall in Friday practice, and this morning, he was able to advance to the Firestone Fast Six and ensure himself a solid starting position for Race 1. An unlucky late yellow cost him a Houston podium in last year’s first race, but if his work so far is any indication, he’ll have a solid opportunity to get that Top-3 result this weekend.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t go quite as planned, but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”