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posted April 16, 2017
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Danica Patrick in March, 2016
Furnished by NASCAR


IS RETIREMENT NEARING FOR PATRICK
By Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter
   In an Associated Press interview last week, Danica Patrick hinted that her retirement from racing might not be too far in the future.
   Patrick was asked how much longer she plans to race, and she hinted that it might already be on her radar.
   “As long as it's fun, and it hasn't been super fun lately,” she said. “But every year I start the year, I always have hope that it's going to be the year that things are going to click. I understand my career hasn't progressed.”
   While Patrick might not have set the racing world on fire with her on track racing, she does appear to have a very savvy head for business. She started in 2014 with a clothing line, and she developed special meals and work out routines.
   Both have been offered for sale on the Home Shopping Network.
   At age 35, she knows her future racing years are few.
   “Am I a worse driver than I was a couple of years ago? Probably not,” she said. “I don't think anybody gets worse. So it's really a matter of all the factors around you.”
   She has been racing more than half her life, building her brand along the journey and using a marketing strategy that has made her one of the most recognized female athletes in the world despite her limited on-track success. She is ranked 29th in points through the first seven races of the season.
Once so glamorous off the track, and so competitive and confrontational on it, these days Patrick is more like a love-struck, self-described hippy who preaches serenity and takes time to enjoy everything around her.
   Her and fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have been going together for several years, and are constantly seen together.
   Is there a proposal from Stenhouse?
   “I got that under control,” she smiled.
   Patrick's yearly salary from racing and endorsements for 2016 was over $16-million. Her net worth is estimated to be in excess of $60-million.
   Patrick started in kart racing and later raced in Formula Ford in the United Kingdom, before returning to the United States and moving up to Indy Cars. She was named the Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 Indy Car Series season. She holds the IRL record for most consecutive races running at the finish.
   She has one Indy Car win, and is the only woman to have led an Indianapolis 500 race.
NEW FORMAT FOR ALL-STAR RACE
   NASCAR announced the format for the 2017 All-Star Race, one that rewards winning, and incorporates a fascinating strategy component.
    The race will feature four stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps), totaling 70 laps, a drawback to the 1992 edition of the same distance.
    The winner of each of the first three stages will lock up a spot in the final stage, as long as they remain on the lead lap after the third stage.
    The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.
    The remaining 10 cars will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.
   The winner will be awarded $1,000,000.
   Crew chief strategy has been at a premium throughout this season, and that won't change in the all-star race thanks to a unique opportunity granted each team: a coveted set of softer tires. Each team will have one set of these tires available to use at their discretion. A softer tire provides the car with more grip and, thus, speed. In other words, it's a game-changer. But there's a catch: Teams that choose to put on their softer tires to start the final stage must start behind those that choose regular tires.
   The Open will be run Saturday evening prior to the All-Star Race and will include three stages (20 laps / 20 Laps / 10 laps). The winner of each stage will earn a spot in the all-star race. The Monster Energy Open field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying.
   Those eligible for the All-Star Race include: drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017; drivers who won a Monster Energy All-Star Race and compete full-time; and drivers who won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete full time. Those who have not already earned a spot via the above criteria can still lock-in by winning a stage in the Monster Energy Open or by winning the Fan Vote.
   Drivers who have already clinched an all-star spot: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.
   Both the Open and All-Star races will be run May 20.
NASCAR TRYING TO PREVENT AIRBORNE CRASHES
   NASCAR is seeking ways to slow cars down at Daytona and Talladega.
   During last week's tire tests at Daytona, Joey Logano was one of five drivers that participated in an aerodynamic test focused on how to keep cars from going airborne at restrictor plate tracks.
   “It was an interesting day with a lot of different packages coming from NASCAR,” Logano said. “The goal is to try and lower the lift-off speed. When these cars turn around backwards, it creates lift. That's when you see cars get real light. When they're already light - and get hit - you sometimes see them roll over, right? We've seen that happen. So we're trying to figure out ways to create downforce - backwards. I guess it's what we're trying to do.
   “It's easier said than done. We can probably do that pretty easily. But doing that and not effecting the racing and not adding a bunch of costs to the teams is the challenge. There's a few different avenues that they tried in trying to achieve that goal. I feel like they've made some good gains on it. But as a driver, it might seem good to me. As a team, they might have to talk some things out on how to implement certain things the right way and keep us all from ourselves, basically. Control ourselves from ourselves. We learned a lot. Even with five cars I thought we collected some good data from that.”
Weekend Racing: The Cup and Xfinity teams will be at the .54-mile Bristol bull ring. The trucks do not race again until May 12.
Sat., Apr. 22, Xfinity Series race 7 of 33, Starting time: 12:30 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Sun., Apr. 23, Cup Series race 8 of 36; Starting time: 2 pm ET; TV: Fox.
Bristol Quick Facts: The first race was won by Joe Weatherly on July 30, 1961.
2016 April Race Winner: No.19-Carl Edwards, 81.637mph, started 1st2016 August Race Winner: No. 4-Kevin Harvick, 77.968mph, started 24thTrack Race Record 1st Race: Cale Yarborough, Apr 1977, 100.989Track Race Record 2nd Race: Charlie Glotzbach, July 1971, 101.074Slowest Race Record: Ned Jarrett, July 1965, 61.826mphOldest Race Winner: Dale Earnhardt, 48 years, 3 months, 30 days, 8/28/1999Youngest Race Winner: Kyle Busch, 21 years, 10 months, 23 days, 3/25/2007Worst Starting Spot to Win: Elliott Sadler, March 2001, started 38th
   Racing Trivia Question: How many Cup championships has Jack Roush won?
   Last Week's Question: Who owns the Bristol Motor Speedway? Answer. Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc.
   You may contact the Racing Reporter by e-mail at: hodges@race500.com.