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Danica looking to Race at the 24 Hours of Dayton

On the first day of a massive three-day Rolex 24 At Daytona test session, Rusty Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR champion, continued to learn the ins and outs of the Daytona Prototype while Indy Racing League star Danica Patrick took her first laps in the sleek and stylish sports car.

Wallace, who retired from NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition after the 2005 season, is going to make the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29 his final competitive race. He is expecting to team up with sports car veterans Allan McNish and Boris Said and Patrick.

"We're going to get (Danica) in the car and get her some time and see if she likes driving the car," Wallace said. "It's up to her if she wants to be the fourth driver to sign on. She's got the invitation. There's no doubt about that. We feel like we're going to have a good winning team."

"It's always flattering when you can run with drivers like Rusty, Allan and Boris," Patrick said. "Provided I go out there and run fast and everything . . . I don't want to drag the team down. So let's make sure it goes alright. If it goes the way it normally does, it should be just fine."

Wallace, who tested the No. 2 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford at DIS in late December, says he's getting a better feel of the Daytona Prototype. He obtained advice from two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and regular Rolex 24 competitor Tony Stewart, who will drive the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford with Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger.

"I left the test two weeks ago struggling with my downshift and entries into the corners," Wallace said. "I called Tony Stewart at home and got him out of a poker game. He was saying, 'when those cars do this, you need to do this or you need to do that.'

"I've never run a race like this. I've told everybody I'm retired fulltime. I've been 25 years in NASCAR racing and 33 years racing total. But I told everybody that one race I always wanted to run was the 24 Hours of Daytona. It's a race that likes of the Andrettis, the Foyts, the late Dale Sr. ran. It's just a race that I would like to run.

Patrick is turning her first laps at DIS during this week's test and is looking forward to making her first Rolex 24 start on the legendary 3.56-mile road course.

"Any kind of track that people come back to time and time again means it's pretty good," Patrick said. "I have to imagine it's going to be a lot of fun going racing on the road course and the oval at the same time. Just the prestige of this race is enough. I'm looking forward to it."

Patrick is surprised that Wallace is coming out of retirement to run the Rolex 24, a grueling and challenging race.

"I'd be really tired," Patrick quipped. "I asked him, 'aren't you tired?' Because I'm thinking about my schedule in racing compared to theirs and that's the biggest thing for me. I'm just not sure I have the energy and I'm 23. It's ridiculous. He's had an amazing career and didn't end on a low note by any means. He did a great job. I'm honored to sit up here with him."

Rolex 24 testing continues on Friday and Saturday and is free and open to the public with access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of Daytona USA.

Danica Patrick Receives Two Awards

Roscoe native Danica Patrick added two more honors this week to her impressive rookie season in the Indy Racing League.

Patrick was named Female Athlete of the Year in Tuesday’s USA TODAY. She finished ahead of tennis player Kim Clijsters and golfer Annika Sorenstam.

Today, Patrick finished second to Sorenstam in the Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year poll. Sorenstam received 47 of 81 votes while Patrick collected 17.

Danica and the Weight Issue

NASCAR weighs drivers

Ameet from Austin, Texas: There has been a lot of controversy about the weight of a driver and the speed of the car. IRL measures the weight of the car not including the driver. What does NASCAR do to make sure there is not an unfair advantage with regard to the weight of the driver.

Larry McReynolds: NASCAR weighs the cars without the driver, but the drivers weight is figured into the equation. NASCAR put a system in place about nine or 10 years ago when some in the garage area thought heavier drivers were being handicapped. Owners may not have looked at drivers who weighed 210 or 220 pounds when you consider drivers like Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, John Andretti and Ward Burton only weighed 150 to 170 pounds. That's a big difference.

NASCAR bases its scale on 10-pound increments. If your driver weighs 200 pounds or more, your car has to weigh 3400 pounds. If your driver weighs 190 to 199 pounds, your car has to weigh 3410 pounds. If your driver weighs 180 to 189 pounds, your car has to weigh 3420 pounds. It keeps working down to drivers that are 159 pounds or lighter. Those cars must weigh 3450 pounds. NASCAR weighs the cars before qualifying, after qualifying, before the race and after the race. You don't have to have the driver in the car because they weigh them twice a year — once at Daytona in February and again at Daytona in July. Nobody has any complaints about that system.

I don't know that much about IRL cars, but as little as they weigh, a driver who weighs 100 pounds vs. a driver who weighs 200 pounds would make a difference. Is that the reason Danica Patrick ran fourth in the Indianpolis 500? No. She had a car that drove well. She was fast all month, and she needs to be highly commended. Whether you're a man or a woman, you've got to be very fit and have a lot of stamina. With what Patrick accomplished at Indy, she fits those criteria.

It's very sad that the success she had on Sunday is being overshadowed by comments about her weight. She did a phenomenal job, and she's only 23 years old. It's not like she's had a ton of IRL starts, and for her to overcome stalling in the pits, wrecking on the track and replacing the nose to finish fourth and come close to winning that thing, that's phenomenal. Let's leave any negative talk out of it.

"Larry McReynolds: The Big Picture" is on bookstore shelves now, or you may order your own autographed copy from

Patrick has fire and desire to compete in any car

Laurie from Lombard, Ill.: Did you happen to see Danica Patrick at Indy? Do you think she has what it takes to be a contender in NASCAR if she decides to make that move in the future?

Darrell Waltrip: I watched the entire race, and it was the best Indy 500 I've seen in years. Danica Patrick proved that you can have a Tiger Woods, and he'll elevate golf. You can have a Smarty Jones, and he can elevate the Triple Crown or the Kentucky Derby. When you have a bonifide contender that's involved in a major sporting event — it could even be Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona — that's going to be good for your sport.

No one else has been able to do what she did for the Indy Racing League in many years so I'm a big fan. I've never met her, but I do know her car owner Bobby "Ray Hall". Before I met him, that's what I thought his name was. I thought he was a good ol' Southern boy, and his name was Bobby Ray Hall. Bobby Rahal has an incredible eye for talent right there.

Since Indy, people have asked if she could make it in NASCAR, and my only concern would be her small build at 5' 4", 105 pounds. Stock cars are very difficult to drive. It takes a lot of mental and physical toughness to be able to deal with a 3400-pound car on these high-banked racetracks so it would take some getting used to for her to be able to do it. But she proved at Indy that she's got the fire and desire. When you throw a competitive person into any situation, they are survivors.

Based on what I saw in Japan and in the Indy 500, I'd never bet against her. I like her attitude, and I love her competitiveness. She has already done great things for her sport, and when you do great things for your sport, you definitely deserve the credit. I really respect what she was able to do at Indy.

Danica Marries

Dania Patrick (23) marries her physical therapist Paul Hospenthal, 40, in Scottsdale, Arizona, November 19, 2005 in a ceremony attended by family and friends including Indy car owner and racing great Bobby Rahal.

Danica gets into it with driver after wreck

Danica Patrick showed this year that she can race with the boys. Sunday, she may have proved she can fight with the boys, too.

Patrick unsatisfied with great rookie season

Danica Patrick's rookie season ended with a crash instead of the victory that she had hoped for.

Get the DVD of the 2005 Indianapolis 500

Buy 1-hour special about Danica available for $15
2-hour 2005 Indy 500 Awards ceremony for $15
4-hour (lower resolution) 2005 Indy 500 on DVD+R for just $25. or all 3 for $40 (Includes shipping and handling.) Just E-mail

Danica Pattrick , , or E-mail

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