NASCAR NEWS BYTES: Danica Patrick Getting Up to Speed at Daytona; Knaus Not Ejected This Time

By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service
Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick

Daytona Beach, FL (Special to HNN) —- Danica Patrick's first foray in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car was better than respectable.


In her first official practice in the series, Patrick was 13th fastest in the No. 10 Chevrolet she'll drive for the Stewart Haas Racing/Tommy Baldwin Racing collaboration in the Feb. 26 season-opening Daytona 500.


Patrick's fastest lap in the two-hour session was 191.975 mph (46.881 seconds), .344 seconds slower than the No. 16 Ford of Greg Biffle, who paced both Saturday practices at 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.


Patrick sat on her window net -- legs inside the car, body outside -- waving to the crowd as her crew pushed the car to the grid for the second session.


"I'm ready to rock!" she assured the crew.


Relative to the rest of the field, Patrick wasn't as fast in the second session (26th of 49 drivers at 191.351 mph), as teams concentrated exclusively of single-car runs to prepare for Sunday's qualifying session for the 54th running of NASCAR's most prestigious race.


"I want to be good at Daytona," said Patrick, who has a flair for big moments. "I know there's a lot of tracks on the schedule, but when it comes to choosing this one or another one I've been to, I'm coming to Daytona, because I want to be good here."


After her debut in the 500, Patrick won't race a cup car again until May at Darlington. She is running a full NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule and will compete for the championship in that series.



The question repeated most often on Saturday was, "Why wasn't crew chief Chad Knaus ejected from the track and suspended immediately, as he was in 2006?"


During opening-day inspection on Friday, NASCAR found non-conforming "C" posts on the No. 48 Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson. The sanctioning body confiscated the offending parts and told Knaus to replace them with "C" posts that did not constitute a body modification outside NASCAR's construction guidelines.


The difference was that, in 2006, Knaus was busted for unapproved changes to the rear window after qualifying, not before.


NASCAR president Mike Helton said the infractions will be addressed after the Daytona 500. In the interim, Knaus and the 48 team won't receive any more scrutiny than any other team.


"Our level of scrutiny is high on everybody every time," Helton said. "So there's no way to get more scrutiny."



Defending race winner Trevor Bayne may not have a guaranteed starting spot in this year's Daytona 500, but his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford was the clear class of the go-or-go-home cars in Saturday's two practice sessions.


Bayne was fourth-fastest in first practice and second quickest in the second session. As good as his car is, Bayne isn't just thinking about making the field. He's thinking about winning a pole in Sunday's qualifying session, which happens to be his 21st birthday.


In Daytona's unique qualifying procedure, only the top two cars on Sunday are locked into those positions for the 500.


"The only two positions that count are the front row, so that's what we're going for," Bayne said after his last practice run. "We're second on the board, and I think we can get that a little bit more to go for a pole.


"I know these guys (the crew) are excited to defend what we did here last year, and they want to tell everybody to get out of our house. If we can start on the front row, I think that would make a statement."

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