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Pedley: Pondering Danica’s Future

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010

Danica Patrick on Pole Day at Indy. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Let’s see what’s in the Morning Memo today:

From the birthing moment of the Danica To NASCAR saga, I’ve wondering what the thoughts of the people in the offices at Andretti Autosport (formerly Andretti Green) have been thinking.

Surely they have not been too thrilled with the fact that the driver who, though certainly not their best, but is still a major source of income and publicity, so obviously wants out.

Michael Andretti must be living in terrified horror that one of these days, Patrick is going to have her people call his people and set up a meeting to discus a “redefining” of her obligations to the IndyCar team – namely, an exit strategy for the deal they all signed last year.

I think no way Andretti gave Patrick a ride to the airport this week when it was time for her to head out to New Hampshire for her return to the Nationwide Series.


But the guess here is that the limo will be waiting after the return flight.

The folks at Andretti have been good soldiers through the whole thing; not that they had a choice. Andretti has said very little in public, other than the perfunctory wishes for the best on her exciting new endeavor. (Good thing she’s not working for A.J. Foyt).

But again, one would assume there has to be a bit of animosity, a small sense of betrayal or even a morsel of jealousy among those left behind.

Especially now: Andretti Autosport teams and drivers – including Patrick – have come to life over the past four or five races. They have begun sharing podiums with the series’ Big Two of Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

And you have to believe that those who run the Indy Racing League are not sending any fruit baskets Patrick’s way this week. Same deal: They’re losing (even if just temporarily – for now) their top draw to folks with whom they are in economic competition.

You just know they were not nodding along in agreement when Patrick said at Daytona that she never really enjoyed running road races in the IRL and that she thought there were too many of those type circuits on the schedule.

But again, correctly, nobody in Indianapolis has been issuing any untoward missives about their big star’s defection.

Patrick started slowly but improved on the track at New Hampshire Friday.

But most significantly, she looked happier as she walked the garages at New Hampshire than she did when I saw her in the paddocks at Kansas and Indianapolis last month.

And if I noticed the smiles and bright attitude, you have to believe that Michael Andretti saw them as well.

Michael, I fear that sometime after the final IndyCar race this fall, you will indeed be getting a phone call from Patrick’s people. And it won’t be to offer you a free Go-Daddy domain name.

Memo to self: Tell real estate agent buddy in Charlotte that it might be wise to ship a box of chocolates to Danica Patrick, care of the Indy Racing League, pronto.

Road victory: Good move by NASCAR to send the Nationwide Series to Road America much? Last Saturday’s race there actually attracted a bigger crowd than did the Sprint Cup race at Infineon Raceway.

The test, of course, will be sustainability. Will crowds continue to fill the grandstands and the woods at the joint when NASCAR returns next year?

And make no mistake; the size of the crowd and the enthusiastic approval of the drivers will force NASCAR to send the series back there next season.

With a slowly growing sentiment toward adding a road race to the Chase, Road America should be considered for a Sprint Cup race. Not in the Chase, of course. Unless it is in early in the Chase as the snow can start fly in central Wisconsin rather early.

But, I say, give Road America the current Infineon date and move that California race into the Chase.

Memo to self: Find out if bratwurst and roasted corn on the cob are a complex carbohydrate when eaten for breakfast.

Rule or guideline? So, how angry do you think Marcos Ambrose should be with NASCAR officials?

Yes, there is a rule stating that cars must maintain a reasonable speed behind the pace when yellow flags are waving, and yes, Ambrose stalled and stopped his car during caution at Infineon Raceway last Sunday, so, no, he did not get his first Sprint Cup victory.

But, I remember a couple of years ago at Kansas Speedway, Greg Biffle fell way off the pace during caution in an attempt to save fuel. Biffle was passed by Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson heading to the checkered flag under yellow and still given the victory.

When the reasonable speed rule was waved at NASCAR officials afterward, they held firm and Biffle, whose car was pushed to Victory Lane by his crew, kept the check.

Hey, I’m just saying…

Memo to self: Duck down real low and cover the head if NASCAR ever decides to take away a victory from Dale Earnhardt Jr. that way.

Can’t wait: More World Cup soccer matches on tap. Can’t wait – for them to be over.

Soccer makes Pocono look like a fire at a fireworks factory. And, the next time a soccer fan starts complaining to you about questionable calls by NASCAR officials, puke all over their cute little Manchester United jersey.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010


  • Richard in N.C. says:

    I don’t see the problem in telling the difference between moving and standing still, but apparently that (and NASCAR enforcing rules) are alien concepts in the media.

  • Jake says:

    “So, how angry do you think Marcos Ambrose should be with NASCAR officials?”

    Not @ all – but he should be very upset with his crew chief, assuming that was who told him to shut the engine off to save fuel. And perhaps upset with himself for not understanding what happens when you do. I like Marcos a lot & really want to see him win, so I’m not picking on him @ all, but race engines get HOT & when you shut ’em off, they often won’t start back up again with the starter.

    If you put the transmission in gear, flip the ignition switch on & let the clutch out, that will usually get the engine running again, but it can also be hard on driveline parts & make the car jerk suddenly when the engine does start running again. You can get good @ it if you practice, but that’s not something a lot of people think about practicing.

    IMO, the smart thing to do if you’ve got a big lead & need to save some fuel, is to EASE on the throttle coming out of corners rather than standing on it & when you can coast, just let off the throttle & push the clutch in, letting the engine drop to idle speed. When you shut the engine off & have a hard time getting it started again, you’ll waste a lot of the fuel you saved just getting it running again.

    And while the coolant in the radiator was cooling down while the engine wasn’t running, the coolant inside the engine was getting hotter & hotter because the pump’s not moving it. Parts like pistons expand as they get hotter & that’s why a hot engine is so hard to re-start – the fit between moving parts is “tight” to begin with & parts can expand to the point that they “seize”. And even though the volume of coolant moving @ idle is low, the pump is still working as long as the engine’s running. Let the engine idle too long & it will overheat, but not if you just push the clutch in & coast in sections of the track where you can.

    A driver should know all these things & a crew chief most assuredly should.

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