There are two ways Danica Patrick can qualify for the Sprint All-Star race on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway: She can either finish first or second in the Sprint Showdown qualifying race or she can win a fan vote.
The top-two finish would be a stretch considering her career best in any Sprint Cup Series race is eighth place at the season-opening Daytona 500. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. already in the All-Star race as a winner from last year, she’s become the favorite to win the fan vote.
“I think about it from a fans perspective and I think that you want the driver that you cheer for to be out there of course, but you want a good race,” Patrick said. “Hopefully, they think of me when they think of those two.”
Patrick did a video promoting her chances in the fan vote, as well as her boyfriend’s, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. In the video she convinced Stenhouse to vote for her, but after she went to the garage he quickly voted for himself.
“I would love to be in the race and I think more than anything you want to entertain your fans of course. I hope I can bein the race to do that,” Patrick said. “Also, I want to perform well in the Coke 600 and racing in the All-Star race woulddefinitely help that.”
The fan vote was added to the format in 2003.
If Patrick manages to race her way into the lineup in the Sprint Showdown, she hopes Stenhouse wins the fan vote.
“I think I would vote for him, I like watching Ricky race,” she said.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Jimmie Johnson spent four months training to do double-duty Saturday – the Sprint All-Star race and a triathlon earlier that morning at King’s Mountain, N.C. But those plans were erased by a dance recital for his daughter, Evie.
The triathlon starts at 8 a.m. Saturday. The recital starts at 9.
“That is going to be a little tough to pull off,” Johnson said. “I even tried to see if we could move the show to later in the day and it’s not going to work.”
I have four months of training invested, but it’s all good.”
“I really do enjoy pushing myself from a fitness stand point. It’s something that I’ve had my eye on for years. I look backat photos, I can’t believe how out of shape I was before when I thought I was in shape.”
Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Michael Waltrip have run marathons and half-marathons in the past. In fact, Johnson and Kahne ran a half-marathon a couple hours before pole qualifying last February for the Daytona 500.
“I’m bummed I’m not going to be able to make that race, because I’m ready and prepared for it,” he said. “At the same timeI will be running a camcorder of sorts filming Evie dancing around. It will be good.”
UP IN AIR: The only thing certain about the future of the No. 55 Toyota at Michael Waltrip Racing is that Mark Martin won’t be driving it next season.
Other than that, Waltrip isn’t sure what’s going to happen.
The master plan was to put Brian Vickers behind the wheel for the full season so he could compete for a championship. But until the team gets sponsorship, which would then allow them to negotiate with Vickers, everything’s on hold.
“We’ve targeted Brian Vickers as the guy that we want to drive our car,” Waltrip said. “We think that Brian is a future champion of the Cup Series so we want Brian to drive it and we want Aaron’s to sponsor it. That’s the news and that’s where it’s at.I think both Aaron’s and Brian are very into making that happen. It would just be a matter of getting the details worked outin order to be able to announce it soon.”
Aaron’s has been with Waltrip for 14 years. The rent-to-own company recent had a change in management with longtime COO – and racing fan – Ken Butler retiring two weeks ago.