Notebook Danica Patrick buckles down at Texas

The SportsXchange

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

FORT WORTH, Tex.--How do we know that Danica Patrick is "the fastest girl in town?"

Her belt buckle says so.

Fresh from an outstanding 12th-place run last Sunday at Martinsville, Patrick took questions from reporters behind her transporter Friday morning at Texas Motor Speedway. It was impossible not to notice the "bling" on her belt.

A massive buckle sported rhinestones and the numbers 10 and 7, which Patrick ran in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, respectively, last year. The buckle was a gift from boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., based on an agreement the drivers made as their friendship blossomed last year at Daytona.

"This started at the beginning of last year when I said that... he (Stenhouse) wanted some Twitter followers," Patrick explained. "So I was like 'Well, if I help you with that, can I have a belt buckle?' So that started at Daytona and so, anyway, he had it made. I got it just before the second Texas race last year (in November).

"I wore it last year at the end of the year. It was very nice. I know these things they are handmade. They are not cheap and it's really cool to have. It says 'fastest girl in town.' That was a nice gift. He didn't actually need to live up to that bet, but it was nice that he did."

Perhaps Stenhouse, however, should demand more for his part of the bargain. As of Saturday, Patrick had more than 886,000 Twitter followers. Though the drivers acknowledged their romantic relationship in February, the number of Stenhouse's Twitter followers is lagging behind at slightly more than 88,000.

Of course, Patrick's promise was for 10,000 followers, and she delivered.

A MAN WITH A PLAN

With a second child on the way--and with wife Chandra due around the time the Chase for the Sprint Cup starts in September--Jimmie Johnson knows he'll have to arrange for a relief driver in case the blessed event occurs on a race weekend.

When Johnson's daughter Genevieve was born in 2010, Aric Almirola stood ready as a relief driver, but Almirola's services weren't needed. After Genevieve was born in July, Johnson went on to win the fifth of his five straight championships that year.

Now with a full-time Cup ride at Richard Petty Motorsports, Almirola won't be available this year, and Johnson knows he'll have to make other arrangements.

"We're not sure who will be available come that time," Johnson said Friday at Texas. "I was joking with Aric Almirola last weekend that, if he wanted to be my back-up driver again, he clearly has a full-time gig and can't do it.

"We'll just have to see, but we will definitely have a plan--like always we will be buttoned up. Our doctor has told me that a father has never missed a birth. That gives me a lot of confidence that I'll be able to do my weekend job and then be around during the week to meet number two."

THE CAT IN THE HALL

Sprint Cup team owner Jack Roush, known as "The Cat in the Hat" for the trademark fedoras he wears, is the latest addition to the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. Roush was inducted Thursday night by former driver and long-time friend Mark Martin during a ceremony in the Speedway Club at Texas.

Five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who held off Brad Keselowski to win last year's Chase race at Texas, was honored as the driver of the year at TMS. Kurt Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, was honored with the Maj. General Thomas Sadler award for his charitable endeavors.

IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal earned the TMS Sportsmanship Award, and the late Chris Economaki was honored with the Bruton Smith Legend Award for his lifelong work as a motorsports journalist.

UP IN SMOKE

Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup practice was unkind to Kevin Harvick, who blew an engine in his No. 29 Chevrolet during Happy Hour. Because of the subsequent engine change, Harvick will start from the rear of the field in Saturday night's Cup race.

Harvick and RCR teammates Paul Menard and Jeff Burton are still seeking the organization's first top-five finish of the season.
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