Patrick very happy racing on IRL series

Updated: July 15, 2005, 7:27 PM ET
Associated Press

GLADEVILLE, Tenn. -- Danica Patrick is enjoying life very well right now. And no, she isn't thinking about leaving the Indy Racing League for some other series like say, NASCAR's Nextel Cup.

"I saw (reigning cup champion) Kurt Busch at the ESPYs. I said, `I don't know how you do it? How do you do that many races?' He said, `It's hard. You don't have a life," Patrick said Friday after earning the outside spot on the front row when rain washed out qualifying for Saturday night's Firestone Indy 200.

Patrick said she enjoys the 17-race schedule for the IRL's IndyCar Series as opposed to the 36-race schedule for Nextel Cup. That leaves her time for the other part of her life.

"And that's relaxing, and that's spending time with my family. So I'm fortunate enough at this point to be in a position where I can. What's important for the series is what's important for the series as well as my sponsor and myself and making a living and putting myself in position to be racing for fun, for the love of it and not saying five years from now I have to race to live," she said.

"I'm in a very good place."

Demands on the rookie sensation have grown with each race and every new exploit. That prompted track officials to limit Friday night's autograph session to 400 fans after hearing of lengthy lines at other tracks over the past month since Patrick finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500.

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^NO OFFENSE NASCAR:@ Buddy Rice thinks people wanting to know why they should pay attention to the Indy Racing League other than watching Danica Patrick only have to watch the racing -- particularly the way IRL drivers finish races.

At Kansas two weeks ago, Tony Kanaan edged series leader Dan Wheldon by 0.0120 seconds in a finish that merely ranked as the sixth-closest in IndyCar Series history.

Two of the first eight races ended under caution, including the Indianapolis 500, but running away from the pack usually doesn't happen here.

"That's what makes it so exciting with the way the rules and the way we have everything set," Rice said. "Plus we're racing hard the whole time, then it comes down to the last 20 laps.

"Everybody pulls everything out, and you see what they have -- the close finishes. Not the wheel banging and finishing under yellow. It's good racing all the way to the end."

Rice, who won the pole here last year, will start 14th after spending practice readying his car for race conditions.

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^PICKIN' AWAY:@ Alex Barron really loves the trophy given to the winner of the Firestone Indy 200 -- a customized Gibson guitar. He won his in 2002 in his first IndyCar Series victory, but hasn't learned how to play yet.

"I don't know how to play yet, so I just bang on the strings and act like I know what I'm doing. I tried to learn how to play it once, but it takes a lot of time to learn. Some day I'm going to learn, though," Barron said.

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^DROP EVERYTHING:@ Sam Hornish Jr. got a call on Monday night asking if he wanted to attend the All-Star game in Detroit as a guest of team owner Roger Penske. Of course, he dropped everything.

"It was a great experience, especially to be able to watch the game from Roger's suite. It was also a good opportunity to spend some time with Roger away from the track and be able to talk about things other than racing," Hornish said.

Hornish goes into Saturday night's race fifth in points.

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^SPARK PLUGS:@ Helio Castroneves has his first victory as a car owner. Hoover Orsi won in Sao Paolo, Brazil, last weekend for NasrCastroneves Racing, the team's first win in two seasons in the Brazilian Stock Car V8 Championship. The cars in the series feature Chevrolets with specifications similar to those of NASCAR's Busch Series.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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