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Patrick leads practice for Daytona 500 qualifying

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick

DAYTONA BEACH — If two practices are any indication, Danica Patrick is a solid candidate to win the pole for the Daytona 500.

Patrick had the fastest lap Saturday in two practices at the 2½-mile Daytona International Speedway.

She went 196.220 mph and said she's eyeing the top starting spot for "The Great American Race" in today's qualifying.

"Everything that we do is to make sure that we do whatever we can to be on the pole," Patrick said. "That is what we all are shooting for."

The front row for the season-opening 500, on Feb. 24 will be set in today's time trials. The rest of the field is set Thursday after two qualifying races.

Patrick was nearly a second faster than the other drivers. Second fastest in the afternoon was three-time champion Tony Stewart, her teammate and car co-owner, who turned a lap of 195.363 mph in his Chevrolet.

Joey Logano paced the morning practice at 195.410 mph in his Penske Racing Ford.

Chevy a big player: NASCAR president Mike Helton and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said Chevrolet might have left NASCAR had the sanctioning body not agreed to redesign cars and make them more relevant to consumers.

But Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, said the auto giant never threatened to walk.

"We're not going to walk in and threaten we're going to leave anything," Reuss said.

Helton and Hendrick, though, believe it could have happened had NASCAR not developed the new "Gen 6" car that resembles those on showroom floors.

At the unveiling of the 2014 Chevrolet SS at DIS, Helton said Chevrolet "backed us in a corner and said, 'Here's what you guys need to think about doing' and causing us maybe to react a little bit ahead of our own schedules. But it worked, and it worked well."

ARCA: John Wes Townley won the Lucas Oil 200, nudging Bobby Gerhart out of the way with seven laps left and holding off Kyle Larson. Rookie Ricky Ehrgott of Riverview was third.

NHRA: Courtney Force earned her third career No. 1 qualifying spot in Funny Car heading into today's eliminations at the season opener, the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also led their categories.

East Bay Raceway: Jimmy Owens won the Late Model main event in Gibsonton.

Patrick leads practice for Daytona 500 qualifying 02/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 10:46pm]
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