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Numerology makes Sense for Patrick

Put your money on the filly. Street Sense wore saddlecloth No. 7 in winning the 133rd Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Why should Danica Patrick care? Because her car will bear the same number in the 91st Indianapolis 500 on May 27. Again, why should she care? Because the winner of America's two greatest races have shared an identifying number in two of the past four years and eight times overall. Funny Cide begat fellow No. 6 Gil de Ferran in 2003 and Smarty Jones preceded fellow No. 15 Buddy Rice in 2005. Patrick finished fourth (the best for a woman) in 2005 at Indy, then eighth last year. So take Danica and box her with Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish.

By BRANT JAMES
Published May 8, 2007


Put your money on the filly. Street Sense wore saddlecloth No. 7 in winning the 133rd Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Why should Danica Patrick care? Because her car will bear the same number in the 91st Indianapolis 500 on May 27. Again, why should she care? Because the winner of America's two greatest races have shared an identifying number in two of the past four years and eight times overall. Funny Cide begat fellow No. 6 Gil de Ferran in 2003 and Smarty Jones preceded fellow No. 15 Buddy Rice in 2005. Patrick finished fourth (the best for a woman) in 2005 at Indy, then eighth last year. So take Danica and box her with Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish.

One big question for ... Sebastien Bourdais, three-time defending Champ Car series champion and St. Petersburg resident, who has won two of three races this year after struggling in the opener at Las Vegas.

Does a "spec" series where the engines and bodies are ostensibly the same guarantee that driver talent will determine the outcome of races?

"It's a little more complicated than that. A spec series is not necessarily good for good drivers. People tend to forget there are good drivers in this series. The good driver needs to lead the team in the direction to get the car better and can have a much better impact on the system when it comes down to development, if the cars are a little different. That's out of the equation this year. It can be a dangerous game for some drivers like me because if I don't like the way the car behaves, I can have opinions to fix it, but it might not be allowed. It's a dangerous situation. It can lead to cheating. With a more open rule book, you can do whatever you want and it's fair for everyone."

Passing

Former Grand Am series driver Milka Duno, the only woman to win a major sportscar race in North America, completed the four phases of Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation on Sunday and is cleared to make her second Indy Racing League start in the sport's biggest race.

Duno covered the 2.5-mile oval in 42.0310 seconds, 214.128 mph.

"I understand now why drivers say Indianapolis is the most difficult track in the world. Everything happens so quick, so fast, " she said. "You have to be precise in every corner. All four corners are different. You have to drive with so much concentration and focus and so precisely."

Rookie Phil Giebler passed two of the four phases of testing and veteran Michael Andretti, a team owner and former driver who competed at Indy last year with his son, Marco, took a refresher course with former full-time IndyCar drivers Ryan Briscoe, Jon Herb, Jaques Lazier and Davey Hamilton. Michael Andretti, who led late in the race last year but finished third to Sam Hornish and his son, led the Sunday session at 40.9330 (219.871 mph.)

Open practice begins Wednesday.

Chatter of the week

A.J. Allmendinger, who started 13th but finished 32nd (in the third of 10 Nextel Cup races for which the rookie has qualified the No. 84 Team Red Bull Toyota this season) is slowly learning the give and take of the NASCAR radio conversation.

Check out this exchange while he was circling during a caution period on Sunday at Richmond ...

Allmendinger: "If I pass all these guys at first will they let me lead a lap?"

Crew chief Ricky Viers: "No."

Allmendinger: "Just so you know Ricky, my car right now under yellow is stuck to the track real good."

Tim Fedewa, spotter: "You look damn good out there A.J."

Allmendinger: "What place am I in right now?"

Viers: "Thirteenth place. You are doing a good job."

Allmendinger: "My car is weaving back and forth better than any other car out here."

Viers: "You are killing me."

Fast Facts:

 

Derby-Indy double

Year Horse Driver Number

1915 Regret Ralph De Palma 2

1940 Gallahadion Wilbur Shaw 1

1970 Dust Commander Al Unser 2

1976 Bold Forbes Johnny Rutherford 2

1978 Affirmed Al Unser 2

1997 Silver Charm Arie Luyendyk 5

2003 Funny Cide Gil de Ferran 6

2004 Smarty Jones Buddy Rice 15