Patrick overcomes practice crash to get a top-10

Updated: August 14, 2006, 12:26 AM ET
By John Schwarb | Special to ESPN.com

SPARTA, Ky. -- Danica Patrick could have envisioned better ways to start her Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

Her Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara-Honda made contact with Vitor Meira during morning practice prior to the Meijer Indy 300, requiring repair to the left sidepod, left-rear suspension, radiator and an engine change.

"Nobody likes to crash right before the race," Patrick said. "I don't know what happened, I was pitting and I saw this flash of orange. The next thing I know, something hit me.

Patrick was allowed to maintain her 11th-place spot on the starting grid despite the engine change and finished a respectable eighth, completing all 200 laps on the 1.5-mile oval. It was her seventh top 10 of the season.

"I certainly don't think my day was horrible. The car was pretty fast at the end and that is a tribute to the guys who worked really hard," she said. "We picked up a top-10 result and I probably could have been a couple of spots higher, but I got chopped pretty bad late in the race.

"Actually there were a lot of people driving desperate today. Sure, we intimidate each other, but there is a certain code and today that was thrown out the window."

The much-anticipated battle of the females between Patrick and Sarah Fisher, the first IndyCar Series race with two women since the 2000 Indianapolis 500, never really materialized in the race. The two started side-by-side in Row 6, but Patrick had the faster car from the beginning and never raced directly with Fisher, who finished 12th and one lap down.

"We were catching them big in the corners, it was off the corners and down the stretch that we had the problems," said Fisher, who found out after the race that she will drive the No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold car in next month's season finale at Chicago.

Howard takes tight Pro Series race

Jay Howard extended his Indy Pro Series points lead with a win in Sunday's Kentucky 100, surviving a three-lap dash to the finish following a late yellow.

The Sam Schmidt Motorsports rookie edged polesitter Jonathan Klein by about a half-car length at the finish line, with the margin of .019 seconds the second-closest in Pro Series history. On the penultimate lap he took the lead from Wade Cunningham after the two touched in Turn 2 and Cunningham took exception, claiming Howard failed to hold his position on a lower line.

"He just drove into me midway through [turn] two, cut my tire and that was the end of my race," said Cunningham, who held on for third. "I'm 100 percent sure it was deliberate. He was doing it the first 15, 17 laps when he was in the lead. You can't really race like that, eventually someone's going to get hurt."

"That's racing, we were racing closely," Howard countered. "He was trying to run as close to me as possible, and that's fine by me. It's his problem, not mine."

Three races remain in the Pro Series, with a doubleheader weekend at Infineon Raceway next on Aug. 26-27.

-- The Associated Press

Teams honor fellow drivers

Champ Car driver Cristiano da Matta rode along in spirit with several IndyCar drivers at Kentucky. Vitor Meira placed "Get Well Cristiano" decals on the tops of his sidepods, in view of in-car television cameras. Fellow Brazilians Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan also paid homage to da Matta, injured Aug. 2 during a test at Road America in Wisconsin.

Rahal Letterman driver Jeff Simmons wore a Steve King t-shirt given to him on Ethanol Day in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. King, a sprint car driver sponsored by the alternative fuel, was killed in an accident Wednesday at the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals.

Two Team Ethanol drivers have died on the track this year. Paul Dana was killed in practice at the IndyCar Series opener at Homestead-Miami in March, in the No. 17 car that Simmons now drives.

-- The Associated Press

Etc.

Kosuke Matsuura was the only driver to not finish, as he got loose behind traffic in Turn 4 of lap 119 and crashed into the wall with the right rear of his car. He was not hurt. & Marco Andretti will have to wait another two weeks to clinch Rookie of the Year honors after finishing 17th, three spots behind fellow rookie Simmons.

-- The Associated Press

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.

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