NASCAR Notebook

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Associated Press
The NASCAR notebook
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers dropped in on Daytona International Speedway Wednesday for a visit ó literally.
A skydiving enthusiast since 2007, Vickers became the first driver in series history to parachute into the speedway as a promotional kickoff for the July 2 Coke Zero 400.
Vickers, 27, came to a sliding, tumbling stop on the grass in the speedwayís tri-oval after his first jump in the rain that started from about 5,000 feet above the track.
ěItís not the first time someone has barreled rolled through the front stretch at Daytona,î he said. ěThe only problem is sticking the landing when youíre sliding through the water, the mud and grass.î
Vickers, who has between 70 and 75 jumps, had planned to jump into the speedway last year but was it never happened because he was diagnosed in May with a hole in his heart and blood clots down his left leg. Heart surgery in July repaired the hole but also showed he was suffering from May-Thurners syndrome, which caused the clots. He had surgery for the clots the next day and missed the last 25 races of the season.
ěThis oneís been a long time coming and I think thatís what increases the significance of it for me is that we had this planned last year,î he said. ěTo be able to come back and finish what we started was pretty special.î
After 12 races this season, Vickersí Red Bull Toyota is 28th in points with one top five and four top 10 finishes.
CHARLOTTE ó Denny Hamlin had three wins at this point last season and was clearly the strongest challenger to Jimmie Johnson’s title.
Joey Logano was inconsistent, but showing enough improvement that everyone believed he was headed toward Victory Lane. When the season ended, Hamlin was an eight-time winner who had nearly ended Johnson’s five-year reign and Logano was predicted to become a legitimate contender for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Neither is driving up to expectations.
Nobody, though, is panicking.
“There’s no doubt we’ll be in the Chase,” said Hamlin, who goes to Kansas Speedway this weekend inside the top 12 for the first time since the third week of the season.
“It’s just never giving up, man,” said Logano, who grabbed a season-best third-place finish Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
MILWAUKEE ó As a professional, Danica Patrick might decide that taking a full-time ride in NASCAR next year is the right way to steer her career.
As a competitor, Patrick acknowledges that leading a handful of laps in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 made her even more hungry for another shot to try to win Indy.
“Every time I’ve been to Indy it makes me want to be back even more,” said Patrick, who led 10 laps in the late stages of Sunday’s race before she had to make a late pit stop for fuel. “I was saying after the race that every time I come and I don’t win, I get more mad every time. I think you just realize how close it can be so many times and that’s what, I think, makes so many people want to come back to Indy.”
Speaking to reporters during a break in an IndyCar test session at the Milwaukee Mile on Wednesday, Patrick reiterated she has not made any decisions about her racing future.