Patrick dominant in practice sessions
DAYTONA BEACH - If two practices are any indication, Danica Patrick is a solid candidate to win the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500. Patrick turned the fastest lap Saturday in a pair of practice sessions focused solely on qualifying for the Daytona 500. She went 196.220 mph around Daytona International Speedway in the second practice session and said she's eyeing the top starting spot in "The Great American Race." "Everything that we do is to make sure that we do whatever we can to be on the pole," Patrick said. "That is what we all are shooting for." The front row for next Sunday's race will be set in today's time trials. The rest of the field is set Thursday after a pair of qualifying races.Patrick was nearly a second faster than the other drivers Saturday. Second fastest in the afternoon session was three-time champion Tony Stewart, her teammate and car co-owner, who turned a lap of 195.363 mph in his Chevrolet. Kyle Busch was third in a Toyota and was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurray as Chevrolet took four of the top five spots. HE SAID, HE SAID: Chevrolet might have pulled out of NASCAR had the sanctioning body not redesigned race cars and made them more relevant to consumers. NASCAR President Mike Helton and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick were involved in talks with the American automaker that made it clear things needed to change to keep Chevrolet happy. But Mark Ruess, president of General Motors North America, said Chevy never threatened to walk. Regardless, Helton and Hendrick said they believe it could have happened had NASCAR not developed the new "Generation 6" car that is debuting at Speedweeks. ARCA: John Wes Townley won his first ARCA Series race at Daytona, nudging Bobby Gerhart out of the way with seven laps left and holding off Kyle Larson. Darrell Wallace Jr., set to become the fourth black driver to run a full-time schedule in a NASCAR series, was caught up in the only major wreck and finished 35th. NHRA: Courtney Force raced to her first No. 1 Funny Car qualifying position of the season at the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Force grabbed the top spot in her Ford Mustang with a performance of 4.036 seconds at 318.24 mph to take her first No. 1 qualifier at Pomona and third of her career. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into today's eliminations at the NHRA Drag Racing Series season opener.