Rebel Yell: Former cheerleader Danica Patrick becoming quite the good luck charm for Ole Miss football team

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Sometimes life indeed comes full circle.

Danica Patrick has done quite a bit in her 32 years of life, starting as a high school cheerleader back in Roscoe, Illinois.

From there, she moved on to IndyCar driver, GoDaddy.com icon and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver.

Now it appears Patrick is back to channeling her high school cheering roots – and in the process has become a bonafide good luck charm in the sports world, particularly for the Ole Miss Rebels football team.

For the second time this season, Patrick attended a Rebels game, standing on the Ole Miss sidelines with boyfriend and fellow NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. during Saturday’s big game against arch rival Mississippi State.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze wasn’t leaving anything to chance. Not only did he invite Patrick and Stenhouse, a huge Ole Miss fan, back for an encore performance to cheer his team on, he even gave Stenhouse the honor to lead the Rebels onto the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

http://instagram.com/p/v_7iUhQfXk/

Patrick even dressed up for the part, sporting Ole Miss face paint. End result No. 13 Ole Miss captured the Egg Bowl, upsetting the No. 10 visiting Bulldogs 31-17.

To add insult to injury for the losing Bulldogs, two Mississippi State buses were involved in a minor accident on the way back home after the game, when the trailing bus ran into the rear of the lead bus.

There were no injuries, although the driver of the second bus was shaken up, according to a report in USA Today.

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MSU bus. Thank goodness everyone was ok.

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Patrick and Stenhouse also attended Ole Miss’ season opener against Boise State in late August as Freeze’s guests. Same end result: Ole Miss romped to a 35-13 win.

Back in June at a charity golf tournament that they took part in, Freeze told the Oxford (Miss.) Citizen, “Ricky (Stenhouse) is an Ole Miss guy. We’re going to transform Danica into being an Ole Miss fan as well.”

The Rebels obviously have done that, indeed.

On April 30, 2013, Patrick attended a Chicago Blackhawks game and took part in a between-period “Shoot The Puck” goal shooting contest, nailing her first shot right into the net.

She ultimately missed her next three attempts, but still ultimately wound up being a good luck charm for the Hawks as they won their playoff series opener with the Minnesota Wild that night 2-1 in overtime en route to their second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons.

Danica Patrick, good luck charm. Who knew?

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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.