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Panther Racing teammates on front row

FORT WORTH, Texas – Most of the attention has been on Danica Patrick since her sensational
showing last month in Indianapolis. The 5-foot-2, 100-pound rookie
driver became the first woman to lead at Indy (19 laps) and the
highest female finisher (fourth).

At Texas on Saturday night, Patrick will start ahead of Indy winner Dan Wheldon and all but two other drivers. Her qualifying lap of 212.661 mph was good for third, a spot better than her Indianapolis start.

"If I don't do well, the story isn't as good," Patrick said.
"So as long as I keep doing well, I'm happy."

Tomas Scheckter Scheckter

The only drivers starting ahead of her are Tomas Scheckter
(213.847 mph) and rookie Tomas Enge (182.076), the Panther Racing
teammates whose Chevrolets were both knocked out of the
Indianapolis because of Patrick.

Preparing to take a green flag after a caution with 45 laps
left, Patrick revved her engine and suddenly swerved. She collided
with Enge, and Scheckter spun into the inside wall trying to avoid
the mess.

"She's usually more trouble when she's ahead of me," Scheckter
said jokingly after earning his third Texas pole. "She should be
fine. She took out two of our cars. A little rookie mistake had a
big consequence. But I've got no problem racing with her."

Patrick had never driven a lap on the 1-mile, high-banked Texas
track before practice Thursday. She then qualified better than
Rahal Letterman teammates Vitor Meira (fifth) and Buddy Rice
(seventh).

"It's good to come to a track for the first time and be strong,
but I put that down to the team, not me," she said. "I really
give credit to everybody else, but I guess I had to help out a
little."

Instead of Indy 500 winner Wheldon, who will start eighth,
Sports Illustrated made Patrick the first Indy driver on the
magazine's cover in 20 years.

"If I owned Sports Illustrated, you've got 33 drivers in the
Indianapolis 500, and one's female and hot, why wouldn't you put
her on the front page?" Wheldon said. "You'd be stupid not to."

An artist spent Thursday outside the Texas track working on a
gigantic mural of Patrick that hangs more than 50 feet above the
ground along busy Interstate 35.

"The biggest thing for me is the self-satisfaction of winning
the race," Wheldon said "I don't care about who gets the most
attention. I've achieved something that's very special to me."

Now the focus is getting back on the track, where Wheldon has a
chance to do something that has never been done.

The win at Indianapolis was Wheldon's third straight, matching
Kenny Brack's series record set seven years ago. It also was his
fourth victory in the five races this season.

Sam Hornish Jr. won a record five races in 2002, including the
finale at Texas to clinch his second straight IndyCar Series season title.
Wheldon still has 12 of 17 races left.

"I'm not going to get too greedy. I won the one I wanted to
win," Wheldon said. "If I don't win any more races, but win the
championship, I'd be really happy with that. At the same time,
that's not my style. I like to win."

Wheldon leads in season points by 72 over Tony Kanaan, the
defending series champion and one of his Andretti Green Racing
teammates. Hornish, the Penske driver who won at Phoenix, is third
in the standings.

This is the IndyCar Series' only stop this year at the Texas track known
for three-wide racing at around 200 mph and some of the series'
closest races. Two of the four smallest winning margins have been
at Texas.