Danica Patrick talks about possibility of racing NASCAR full-time in future

VehiclesAuto RacingDaytona 500Human InterestDanica PatrickTony StewartDale Earnhardt, Jr.

Two days before Danica Patrick begins her 2011 racing season, in which she'll race both stock cars and Indy cars, she said she's unsure of her plans for 2012 and beyond.

"It depends on what I want to do, it depends on sponsorship, it depends on a lot of things," Patrick said on Thursday after turning in a speed of 193.515 at Nationwide Series practice, the third-fastest run of the day. "Luckily, though, it's only Feb. 17, so I have a lot of time to think about it and figure it out."

Her contracts for both NASCAR and IndyCar end after this season, meaning she could likely choose to race stock cars full-time next year.

But she doesn't intend on making a decision anytime soon, and she's unsure when that decision will be made.

"The season ends when the season ends and it starts next year when it starts," she said. "So, somewhere in that time frame."

Patrick will race in 12 Nationwide races again this season, looking to improve her stock after an up-and-down showing last year. She's only a part-time driver in the Nationwide Series, which is 34 races in all.

She's already feeling more comfortable in her second time going through the NASCAR season.

"I feel comfortable; I'm hearing that I sound a bit more confident on the radio," Patrick said. "I think it's important for me to keep in perspective that it's not year two for me. This is like race number 13 for me."

She's also learning that there's much more camaraderie among the drivers in NASCAR, a stark contrast from the more callous IndyCar atmosphere.

Juan Pablo Montoya sent her an encouraging text last night. Dale Earnhardt Jr. visited her garage to talk shop. Tony Stewart ran with her Thursday in their practice run.

"I feel like there's respect amongst the garage, with people being open and helping me," Patrick said. "But the real respect comes from when you run with them out there. Running in a pack, being a good pusher, being good at leading them through a group, two or three of you breaking away – that's where the real respect comes in. If they dish something out to you, you give it back. That's the sort of way you get respect. That's the most important thing. I've been very lucky to start out with a sort of garage respect in helping me out so far in this process. "

Zach McCann

Santos slams into wall

Bobby Santos has been released from the infield care center after suffering minor injuries when he hit the wall inside of pit road off the final turn.

Track workers have repaired the safe barrier on the wall and race cars returned to the track around 10:45 a.m.

Zach McCann

NASCAR adjust restrictor plates

NASCAR announced Wednesday morning that it will change the carburetor restrictor plates on the engines to reduce speeds for Sunday's Daytona 500.

The opening of the plate will be 1/64th of an inch smaller (to 57/64ths) to greater restrict the air flow, which will give the engines about 10 to 12 less horsepower.

The change is effective immediately, starting with the first practice session Wednesday morning.

Speeds reached more than 206 mph in the Budweiser Shootout Saturday night at Daytona.

NASCAR already made two rules changes Sunday to cause the engines to heat up faster and limit some of the pairs racing that took place in the Shootout, which enabled the cars to reach higher speeds.

The front grill opening was reduced and NASCAR mandated lower radiator pressure so the engines would get hot faster. The rear car pushing the car in front could overheat in a few laps with the rule changes.

George Diaz

McBride to sing anthem

From the Grammy Awards to the Daytona 500.

Country star Martina McBride has 24 top-10 singles, but she'll try a different tune for Sunday's Daytona 500: the national anthem.

McBride will sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" before the 53rd annual race.

"Singing our National Anthem is always a great honor for me," McBride said. "I've had the pleasure of singing it at so many prestigious events and now I get to add the historic Daytona 500 to that list. You can't get any more all-American than NASCAR and country music."

McBride owns four CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards and is a three-time winner of the American Country Music's Female Vocalist of the Year. (She's also won a Grammy.) Among her hits: Day," "Wild Angels," "A Broken Wing," "Blessed," "Concrete Angel" and "This One's for the Girls."

Alan Schmadtke

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