Danica heeds Harvick’s advice: Smash the gas

Posted Wednesday, May. 14, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Series updates

Sprint Cup

Who’s in: It’s the All-Star race. Here is who is in and who gets in — the winners of every race since last year’s Daytona 500, plus the top two in the Sprint Showdown last-chance-style qualifier on Friday night and the winner of the fan vote (the app or online). It’s 90 laps, with a 10-lap “shootout” to the finish, and $1 million to the winner. That’s it. No points, no Chase berths, just cash.

Nationwide

Congratulations, graduate: Chase Elliott graduates from high school on Saturday morning in Georgia and then will fly to Iowa to run in Sunday’s race. He is the series leader in points, driver rating, average running position, fastest laps run and laps in the top 15.

Roush at Iowa: Roush Fenway has won four of the eight Nationwide races run at Iowa Speedway, three with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and one last year with Trevor Bayne.

Camping World Truck

Kyle at Iowa: Kyle Busch is going for his sixth win and fourth straight at Charlotte. He’s been out of the top 10 only once in eight starts at the 1.5-mile track. Speaking of 1.5-mile tracks, they are where Busch has collected 18 of his 37 truck series wins.

Keselowski start: Brad Keselowski is making his first series start of the season.

NHRA

Top Fuel: Points leader Doug Kalitta has made the final in four of the five races and won once to start the season. This week’s stop is Atlanta, where he last won in 2005 and 2006.

Résumé drought: Tony Schumacher has 73 wins in Top Fuel, but he has never won at Atlanta. He has been runner-up four times.

Numbers game

9.2 Average finish for Jeff Gordon this season. He has not finished a season better than 10.2 since 2007.

They said it

“They have been giving me the best race cars all year long. I have been having so much fun. I’m going to be 43 this year, and I feel like I’m 25 again. That is the way they make me feel.”

— Jeff Gordon, who won 10 races in 1997, when he was 25

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Danica Patrick must be earning some respect.

Because Kevin Harvick thinks she’s doing something right. And if Kevin Harvick thinks you’re doing something right, you’re doing something right.

“Obviously, she’s run well all weekend, qualified well, raced well all night,” he said after Saturday night’s race at Kansas Speedway, where Patrick recorded her best finish — seventh place — since joining the Sprint Cup series three years ago.

It was the fourth-best finish by a woman in series history.

It did not go unnoticed by Harvick, her first-year teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, or anyone else.

“We talk a lot, and I think for her, it’s just the confidence in knowing exactly what the car is going to do,” Harvick said. “There’s a lot of hurdles to overcome for her to make up that experience. I feel like we can help her speed that process up by just telling her some of the things that she should expect and do.”

Patrick is still early in her Cup career, with less than two full seasons’ worth of starts.

But she has not exactly shown herself to be a fast learner in stock cars. She has a reputation for holding a good line in a fast car, but also for perhaps being too careful and avoiding trouble — maybe not digging in as much as she can for track position.

“As she went through the weekend, she kept her track position on the restarts. That’s probably the biggest thing,” Harvick said. “But I guess the one thing I did tell her was just to quit thinking about it and smash the gas.

“Sometimes your car is never going to be perfect, and you just have to take what it’ll give you and expect that every time you pit, it’s going to be better. And if it’s not you adjust and move on.”

Stewart-Haas is going to keep giving Patrick good equipment. She is going to keep learning.

The trick for her will be keeping her confidence, even if far more finishes in the 20s roll in than finishes in the top-10.

“This is the kind of stuff that materializes in wins,” she said postrace. “We’ve just got to keep hanging around and doing what we’re doing. I’m just proud of everyone for working really hard and believing in me.”

Confidence? No problem, she said.

“I’ve always believed in myself and with the right situation, a good car, that I can do it,” she said. “It’s little moments, when you drive by Jimmie Johnson on the outside; stuff like that makes me really proud of myself.”

It doesn’t sound like she’s the only one.

Hero nominee

Army veteran John Wayne Walding of Little Elm is in the running to have the Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis named for him. The 32-year-old former Special Forces soldier is one of five finalists to have his name on the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 on July 27.

Fans can vote at CrownRoyalHeroes.com until June 2. All five finalists will attend the race.

Walding, 32, lost his lower right leg on duty in 2008 with the 3rd Special Forces Group, with whom he completed tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has since completed Special Forces Sniper school, run the 2009 Boston Marathon in a hand cycle and been awarded the Silver Star, among other honors.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @calexmendez

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