Darlington Danica

Danica Patrick makes her return to NASCAR Sprint Cup racing for the first time since her...

Danica Patrick makes her return to NASCAR Sprint Cup racing for the first time since her disappointing run at the Daytona 500 when she takes the No. 10 SHR Chevrolet into the Southern 500 tonight at The Track Too Tough to Tame, Darlington Raceway. (AFP files)

Dean McNulty, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:56 PM ET

With all of the talk about Danica Patrick’s temper tantrum last week at Talladega after she punted Sam Hornish Jr. into the wall, it is appropriate that she’ll be right back on the track Saturday for her NASCAR Sprint Cup debut at Darlington Raceway in the Southern 500. 

Sort of — as it was described this week by her Stewart-Haas Racing team — like the Lady in Green meets the Lady in Black.

Patrick will be in the No. 10 SHR Chevrolet for the first time since the Daytona 500, where she lasted little more than a lap before getting caught up in a big wreck that included five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

Although her team was able to get her back on the track to complete 138 laps of the 202-lap race, it was hardly the way she wanted to launch her Cup career.

Saturday at Darlington presents a new chance, but one the is fraught with danger at the egg-shaped oval.

Patrick admitted that Darlington will be a challenge for her and the team.

“I’m told it’s not going to be so much about the track and getting comfortable and getting up to speed or feeling good, that it’s going to be more about learning how to pass there and how that works because it’s one lane and one groove,” she said. “Just going to two-wide in (Turns) One and Two can cost you a second a lap, so it’s a matter of being smart about when you’re supposed to let off and give the position up for the sake of overall time.

“Getting used to that is going to be the hardest thing. Other than that, it’s a new track for me, so feeling out the rhythm of the race is going to be another challenge.”

SPANISH GRAND PRIX

Jenson Button goes into Saturday’s qualifying round at the Spanish Grand Prix full of confidence after topping the speed pole in practice on Friday in his McLaren Mercedes.

Button threw down a lap of one minute 23.399 seconds using soft-compound tires on the 4.655-km Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

Button’s time was .164 seconds faster than defending two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel’s time of 1:23.563 in the Red Bull Renault.

“It was a positive afternoon,” Button said. “I did a good lap on the option tire; the car is running well, and our upgrades seem to be working. But there are still some improvements to be made.

“The (option tire) seems to be a bit easier for everyone as it’s softer and therefore more receptive to generating temperature.”

It wasn’t a perfect session, however, as the McLaren team had some problems getting better results on the harder-compound tires.

“If we can solve these issues with the prime and get it into its correct working range, I think we can be quite competitive this weekend,” Button said.

Nico Rosberg was third fastest for Mercedes on a laps of 1:23.771 with Lewis Hamilton in fourth at 1:23.909 and Kimi Raikkonen rounding out the top five at 1:23.918.

CHEVY LOSES APPEAL

Chevrolet has lost its first big battle in its return to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The Indiana Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Chevrolet on Friday that would have stopped Honda from using a new compressor cover for its single turbocharger system on its V6 engines at this month’s Indianapolis 500.

Chevrolet employs a twin turbo system on its V6 power plants.

Both units are manufactured by Borg Warner.

Honda sought the change after convincing IndyCar officials that Chevrolet had an unfair advantage with its twin turbo system.

And that showed on the track with Chevrolet-powered teams winning all four races to date on the IndyCar calendar.

Chevrolet racing boss Jim Campbell said General Motors will abide by the ruling but is not pleased.

“Despite the ruling from the appeal hearing, GM’s position on this has not changed,” Campbell said. “Yes, we are disappointed with the decision. All we’ve asked from the beginning is that the existing rules and engine regulations be applied fairly.”

Honda, on the other hand, was extremely happy that it can go ahead with plans to get more power to its teams for the remainder of the 2012 season.

“We are pleased that (the) ruling has again confirmed IndyCar’s initial step to address parity of the Series-mandated single and twin turbochargers,” Honda vice-president of development Steve Eriksen said. “We eagerly look forward to continuing our battle with Chevrolet and Lotus as practice sessions for the Indianapolis 500.”

FINISH LINES

Sports car racing icon Carroll Shelby, a native of Leesburg, Tex., passed away Friday at the age of 89. Shelby is best known for his Shelby Cobra, which became the first North American built sports car to wrest a world championship away from Ferrari ... The first full day of Indianapolis 500 practice goes Saturday. It will also be the first day of testing for Canada’s Alex Tagliani with his new Honda engine for the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Barracuda Dallara DW12. ... NASCAR Canadian Tire Series driver Joey McColm will campaign at the season-opening Vortex Brake Pads 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville next weekend with his No. 50 Dodge emblazoned with support for Canada’s Summer Olympics team. McColm’s race car will display the hashtag #GiveYourEverything on it. And anyone who tweets a link to the Canadian Olympic Team’s new YouTube video Relentless and includes the hashtag #GiveYourEverything will have their Twitter handle added to the car as well ... Two-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti will try for his third Borg Warner trophy this month, but the Target Ganassi Racing team has changed the number on his Dallara from 10 to 50 to honour Target’s 50th anniversary.


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