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Category: Danica Patrick

Long Beach is third race in 2011 IndyCar schedule

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be held April 17 next year, the third race in the 2011 IndyCar Series schedule announced Friday.

The schedule starts with a street race in St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 27, includes a return to the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin on June 19 and for the first time features a street race in Baltimore, on Sept. 4. IndyCar's crown jewel, the Indianapolis 500, is scheduled May 29.

A site for the season finale in October hasn't yet been chosen, although there is speculation it might be held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ryan Hunter-Reay won this year's Long Beach grand prix, which is run on a 1.97-mile, 11-turn course through the city's seaside streets.

--Jim Peltz

Danica Patrick set to rejoin NASCAR in Michigan

Can Danica Patrick crack the top 20 this time?

The popular IndyCar driver returns to NASCAR on Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway, one of several races she's entering in NASCAR's second-tier series this year to see how she likes stock-car racing.

Danica This will be her sixth Nationwide race; in her first four events she finished 30th or worse, in some cases because she was collected in accidents. But in her most recent NASCAR race, at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., on July 9, she finished 24th while keeping her car out of trouble.

Now she'll be driving her No. 7 Chevrolet, prepared by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team, at the two-mile Michigan oval that's nearly identical to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Patrick finished 31st in her second NASCAR race in February.

"Looking back at Chicagoland, I think it was a very positive race for me," Patrick said in notes released by her team. "We were able to run the entire race fairly clean, which was something we needed. Getting laps and more laps are what I'm focused on right now."

In the Izod IndyCar Series, meanwhile, Patrick often has struggled this season (she's 11th in the point standings), fueling the debate about whether splitting her time between IndyCar and NASCAR in the same season is hurting her in both. It's a notion she's repeatedly rejected. Now in her sixth season of IndyCar racing, Patrick has one win on that circuit, in Motegi, Japan, in 2008.

After Michigan, Patrick returns to IndyCar racing Aug. 22 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Danica Patrick following a practice session July 24 for the Izod IndyCar Series race in Edmonton,  Canada. Credit: Jeff McIntosh / Associated Press-The Canadian Press

IndyCar sticks with Dallara for new race cars, but what will they look like?

After months of deliberation, the Izod IndyCar Series said Wednesday it would stick with current chassis designer Dallara to provide the chassis for its new race cars set to debut in the 2012 season.

But in a twist, the series said other manufacturers and engineering firms -- including those not currently involved in motor sports -- would be invited to "dress" the chassis with different body work, or aero kits, that could include front and rear wings, side pods and so forth.

So the final look of the cars would vary for IndyCar drivers, who currently include this year's Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick.

Here's a general idea from IndyCar's website:


In a sport where the cars reach speeds of 225 mph at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the kits would be subject to the series' safety testing before they could be made available to IndyCar teams. Each team would be able to race two different aero kits during the season.

IndycarThe new chassis would have enhanced driver safety features and be nearly 200 pounds lighter, at 1,380 pounds, than the current IndyCar chassis made by Italian-based Dallara. Also, the new chassis, at $349,000, would cost about 40% less than the current version.

That reduction "is a game-changer for the sport," said Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, a member of the committee that chose Dallara's entry instead of four other candidates. "We've ensured that team owners currently in the sport can continue to participate and we can entice new teams to join."

At a press conference at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, series officials also said Dallara would build the new chassis at a facility in Speedway, Ind., just outside Indianapolis.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Alex Tagliani leads Helio Castroneves through a corner in the Izod IndyCar Series race last Sunday in Watkins Glen, N.Y., with cars using the current Dallara chassis. Credit: David Boe / Associated Press


Danica struggling in Junior's car, but NASCAR's Earnhardt has his own problems

Dale

Danica Patrick was back with NASCAR on Friday in a Nationwide Series car owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., but that didn't mean the two popular drivers spent much time together.

Patrick was using another off week in the Izod IndyCar Series to try her hand at stock-car racing, and was competing in the Nationwide race at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway tri-oval in Joliet, Ill., on Friday night.

Danica She qualified 28th fastest for the race, and she finished 30th in her previous Nationwide race June 26 in New Hampshire.That was her highest finish in four Nationwide races so far.

Earnhardt, in turn, was preparing for the Saturday night race at Chicagoland in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series. On Friday, he was asked if he and Patrick had compared notes.

"I haven't talked to her since New Hampshire," Earnhardt told reporters, according to a transcript from Team Chevy Racing. "She's got a crew chief, I don't need to talk to her. I've got my own set of damn problems to deal with."

With his fourth-place finish last weekend at Daytona, Earnhardt climbed to 11th in the Cup standings, and it's the top 12 drivers after 26 races who qualify to compete in the Chase title playoff over the remaining 10 races of the season.

But after the Daytona race, Earnhardt apologized to his fans, saying the finish in his No. 88 Chevrolet was "lucky" because his team "didn't have a car to compete" that night.

He elaborated Friday, saying, "We need to keep working hard, we need to get better," and added that "I'm nervous about losing points and not making the Chase." However, Earnhardt did score an emotional win in the Nationwide race at Daytona, driving a Chevy with the No. 3 paint scheme made famous by his late father, seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.

--Jim Peltz

Photos: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (top) signs autographs and Danica Patrick (right) waits in the garage Friday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., site of the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup races Friday and Saturday, respectively. Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Dario Franchitti wins Indianapolis 500 and team owner Chip Ganassi makes history [Update]

Franchitti_600

Dario Franchitti won his second Indianapolis 500 on Sunday after dominating the race and his team owner Chip Ganassi made history, becoming the first owner to win the Indy 500 and NASCAR's Daytona 500 in the same year.

Although Franchitti had the strongest car, he had to wait out several drivers who opted not to make a late pit stop with the leaders. Eventually, though, those drivers -- who included defending race winner Helio Castroneves -- were forced to pit for fuel and Franchitti regained the lead for good.

With his wife, actress Ashley Judd, rooting him on, Franchitti crossed the finish line under a caution flag because of a vicious crash involving Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay two laps from the end. Then Franchitti took the traditional drink of milk given to the winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"It's just as good the second time," said Franchitti, who won his first Indy 500 in a rain-shortened race in 2007. Jamie McMurray, a driver on Ganassi's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, won the Daytona 500 in February.

[Updated] Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, two former Indy 500 winners, finished second and fifth, respectively. Marco Andretti finished third and Alex Lloyd was fourth.

Castroneves was trying to become only the fourth driver to win four Indy 500s, but his day was spoiled when he stalled his car after he made a pit stop on Lap 143. Until then, he had been running in the top five. He finished ninth.

[Update] Danica Patrick finished sixth after starting 23rd and struggling for much of the 200-lap race.

--Jim Peltz in Indianapolis

Photo: Two-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti hoists the traditional glass of milk in Victory Lane on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire

Kanaan surges, but Franchitti leads Indy 500 with 50 laps left

Tony Kanaan made a remarkable surge to the front, but Dario Franchitti still held the lead with 50 laps remaining in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

Matos Kanaan, who drives for the Andretti Autosport team and has never won the Indy 500, had started next to last, in 32nd, after having qualifying troubles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But he steadily moved through the field and was third behind Franchitti, the 2007 Indy 500 winner, and Marco Andretti.

Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was running in the top five, but he lost precious seconds when he stalled the car after making a late pit stop.

And another Penske driver, Ryan Briscoe, also was contending for the win, but he crashed into the wall coming out of the fourth turn on Lap 148.

Danica Patrick climbed to 12th after starting 23rd. She's a teammate of Kanaan's and Andretti's at the team of Andretti Autosport.

Brazilian driver Raphael Matos was running as high as third before he spun and slammed the wall on Lap 72.

-- Jim Peltz in Indianapolis

Photo: Raphael Matos crashes into the wall as E.J. Viso passes in the foreground during the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 2010. Credit: Steve Metz / Associated Press

Franchitti leads Castroneves at Indy 500 halfway point

Dario Franchitti continued to narrowly lead Helio Castroneves at the midpoint of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday on a warm, sunny day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dario

Castroneves, who started on the pole in hopes of becoming only the fourth driver to win four Indy 500s, was less than one second behind Franchitti, who won the historic race in 2007. Castroneves also is the defending winner of the Indy 500.


Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves' teammate at Team Penske, was third and Ed Carpenter fourth.

Danica Patrick continued to struggle. After starting 23rd, she was 17th and running at speeds much slower than the leaders.


But Tony Kanaan, her teammate at the team of Andretti Autosport, made a huge move forward and was fifth after starting next-to-last in 32nd.

Stay tuned to latimes.com/sports for more updates on the race.

-- Jim Peltz in Indianapolis

Photo: Dario Franchitti makes a pit stop during the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images

Franchitti has lead after 50 laps at Indianapolis 500

Jack3

Dario Franchitti led the Indianapolis 500 after 50 laps Sunday in the 200-lap race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves, attempting to become only the fourth driver to win four Indy 500s, was second behind Franchitti, who won the historic race in 2007.

Raphael Matos was third, and Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves' teammate at Team Penske, was fourth.


Danica Patrick continued to struggle. After starting 23rd, she was 19th and running at speeds much slower than the leaders.

Indystart

But Tony Kanaan, her teammate at the team of Andretti Autosport, moved up quickly to 12th after starting next to last in 32nd.

With the 33-car field lined up in 11 rows of three cars each, the start of the Indy 500 is always a hair-raising moment. The start Sunday went smoothly as the cars moved into the first turn after getting the green flag from actor Jack Nicholson, the honorary starter.

But then Davey Hamilton spun and smacked the inside wall, bringing out the yellow flag. A few laps later, Bruno Junqueira also lost control and hit the outside wall. Neither driver was injured.

Nicholson clearly enjoyed his day in the speedway's flag stand overlooking the start-finish line.

The honorary starter typically waves the green flag only at the beginning and then departs. But with the two early spin-outs triggering caution periods, the 73-year-old Nicholson -- wearing a Lakers cap, of course -- stayed put so he could again wave the green flag each time the field restarted.

Stay tuned to latimes.com/sports for more updates on the race.

-- Jim Peltz in Indianapolis

Photos: Top, actor Jack Nicholson waves the green flag to start the Indianapolis 500. Credit: Darron Cummings / Associated Press. Bottom, Helio Castroneves leads the field down the front straightaway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: Mike Groll / Associated Press


Indy 500 preview: Can Helio Castroneves win No. 4?

Jack2 As an estimated 200,000-plus filed into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway under sunny skies Sunday, the overriding question was whether Helio Castroneves could win his fourth Indianapolis 500.

If so, Castroneves would join only three other drivers -- A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser -- who have won the historic race a record four times. And Castroneves is on the pole for this year's race, which will start when actor Jack Nicholson waves the green flag as the honorary starter.

Other favorites in the race include former Indy 500 winners Dario Franchitti and his teammate Scott Dixon, starting third and sixth, respectively.

Other drivers to watch included Danica Patrick, who will be under pressure to move up early in the 200-lap race because she's starting a distant 23rd. There are three other women in the race as well: Ana Beatriz, Simona De Silvestro and Sarah Fisher.

Also keep an eye on Tony Kanaan, a teammate of Patrick's who is starting next to last, in 32nd place. He too is expected to try to pass a lot of cars in the early going.

Stay tuned to latimes.com/sports for updates during the race.

-- Jim Peltz in Indianapolis

Photo: Racing legend Mario Andretti, left, and actor Jack Nicholson at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, where Nicholson was to wave the green flag for the Indianapolis 500. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire

Dario Franchitti fastest in final Indy 500 practice

Dario Franchitti turned the fastest lap in the final practice Friday for the Indianapolis 500 while Danica Patrick continued to struggle to find sufficient speed.

Dario Franchitti, who won the race in 2007 when it was shortened by rain, posted a lap of 225.574 mph on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on so-called "Carb Day," a throwback term to the days when teams would make final tweaks to the cars' engine carburetors before the race.

Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner and Franchitti's teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, ran the second-fastest lap at 225.159 mph, and both drivers were the only ones to top 225 mph in the one-hour practice on a clear day with temperatures in the mid-80s.

Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves, who is trying to become only the fourth driver to win the Indy 500 four times, was fifth-fastest in practice.

But Patrick languished in 21st in her Andretti Autosport car with a lap of 222.306 mph, more than 3 mph slower than Franchitti. Patrick, the most popular driver in the Izod IndyCar Series, qualified 23rd for Sunday's race.

-- Jim Peltz in Indianapolis

Photo: Driver Dario Franchitti before leading the final practice Friday for the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: AJ Mast / Associated Press

Jack Nicholson to wave green flag at Indianapolis 500

Jack Even if the Lakers-Suns series goes seven games, the teams have Sunday off -- enough of a break for Jack Nicholson  to wave the green flag at this year's Indianapolis 500.

The 73-year-old actor and die-hard Lakers fan on Wednesday was named the honorary starter of the legendary race, which typically draws more than 200,000 spectators at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race starts at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday.

"We look forward to welcoming him to Indianapolis and watching him wave the green flag," track president Jeff Belskus said in a statement.

Defending winner Helio Castroneves won the pole position for this year's race and will lead the 33-car field past Nicholson to start the 200-lap event.

--Jim Peltz

Photo:Actor Jack Nicholson during a Lakers playoff game with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on April 20. Credit: Noel Vasquez / Getty Images

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