Danica Patrick bounces back

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:30 PM ET

What a difference a week makes in the life of Danica Patrick.

After suffering through the worst start in her IZOD IndyCar racing career, Patrick bounced back for a sixth place finish last week at the Indianapolis 500 and on Saturday she came within a perfectly-coiffed eyelash of winning the Firestone 550K at Texas Motor Speedway.

It was quite possibly the best race of her six years in IndyCar. While she collected a win two years ago at Japan’s Twin-ring Motegi in a fuel race, Saturday’s second-place finish, behind winner Ryan Briscoe, was all about wheel-to-wheel racing.

Just how bad was Patrick’s season going?

Well when she passed Briscoe with 36 laps to go at Texas it was the first lap she’d led all season long.

And just to show Patrick has won back her fans, the 28-year-old got a standing ovation when she took over the lead.

A lap later, however, Briscoe got back by her, but it wasn’t easy.

“I’m surprised somebody didn’t throw something at me,” Briscoe said of passing his old nemesis.

Briscoe admitted it took everything he had to make the final pass and he wasn’t sure he could pull it off.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “She had been running strong all night long. I knew she had a very strong car.

“I let her go by for the lead, but I got a run exiting Turn 4. I used the push-to-pass at the right time and drove through it. I figured if I didn’t get her there, I wasn’t sure I would get her at all. She did an amazing job tonight.”

No small praise from Briscoe, who had a famous run-in with Patrick on pit lane in 2008 at Indy, and is not known to throw bouquets her way at the best of times.

Pit stops

IZOD IndyCar race officials got an earful from HVM Racing boss Keith Wiggins on Saturday night when the safety crew at Texas Motor Speedway appeared slow in getting to a trapped Simona de Silvestro after she crashed on Lap 100 of the Firestone 550K. “The safety crew should be ashamed of themselves,” Wiggins said. “That was a scary moment and we are glad she is all right.” Eye witnesses said it took about 30 seconds for the rescue team to reach the fiery wreck. As for de Silvestro, she was more concerned about her father who was at the track. “I thought he was going to have a heart attack,” she said ... Tony Kanaan will trade in his No. 11 Indy Car Andretti Autosport Honda this week to drive a late model dirt track race car at Tony Stewart’s Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream Wednesday at the legendary Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Finish lines

For the second consecutive year D.J. Kennington has won the Keystone Light 200 to start the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season in the No. 17 Castrol Edge/Mahindra Tractors/Hitachi Tools Dodge at Delaware Speedway ... The next NCTS race — at Mosport International Raceway Saturday and Sunday— will be brought to you from the bad planning department. In case anyone hadn’t noticed those are the same race dates as the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal ... Paul Tracy won the CART Miller Lite 200 on the Milwaukee Mile 11-years ago this week. Poor attendance and poorer management has left the legendary oval dark for almost a year ... Let’s hope a management change at Alex Tagliani’s FAZZT IndyCar team — race boss Rob Edwards takes over as COO from Jim Freudenberg — doesn’t hamper the progress the team has made this season.

NASCAR Sprint Cup

A yellow flag on the penultimate lap of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 almost cost Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota his fourth victory in the past nine NASCAR Sprint Cup races and his fourth victory at Pocono Raceway’s 2.5 tri-oval.

He had the race win in sight when Kevin Harvick clipped the No. 20 Toyota of Joe Logano on lap 199, sending Logano spinning across the track.

Hamlin beat Tony Stewart on the green-white-checkered re-start and never looked back.

Just after Hamlin crossed the start-finish line on the final lap a huge crash sent cars reeling all over the place behind him. No serious injuries were reported but the No. 9 Ford of Kasey Kahne.was sent flying into the No. 5 Chevrolet of Mark Martin, collecting eight other cars in the process.

Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch finished second in the No. 18 Toyota with Tony Stewart taking third in the No. 14 Chevrolet.

Harvick ended up fourth with four-time champion Jimmie Johnson was fifth.

IZOD IndyCar Series

Australia’s Ryan Briscoe came close last season to winning at Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval and wasn’t going to miss the opportunity a second time.

Briscoe passed Danica Patrick with 37 laps to go to win the IZOD IndyCar series Firestone 550K Saturday night in the No. 6 Penske Racing Honda.

Patrick, following up her 6th place finish at Indianapolis last week, finished second in the No. 7 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Her teammate Marco Andretti finished third for the second consecutive race and Scott Dixon, who won at Texas in 2008, was fourth for Target Ganassi Racing.

Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who led much of the race in the No. 10 Target Ganassi Honda, was fifth.

But when Penske’s Will Power ran over some debris that left him with a 14th place finish, Franchitti was able to take over the top spot in the championship.

Helio Castroneves, who started fifth, exited on Lap 129 when he attempted to overtake the No. 32 KV Racing Technology car of Mario Moraes.


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