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Continued: Return to Daytona could bring even bigger results for Danica Patrick

  • Article by: JENNA FRYER , AP Auto Racing Writer
  • Last update: July 4, 2013 - 12:20 AM

The series announced Wednesday it will utilize three-wide starts in the season-ending race at Fontana, Calif., which is the final leg in the Triple Crown challenge. IndyCar had previously announced it will use three-wide starts for Sunday's race at Pocono, the second leg.

Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan is the only driver eligible to win the $1 million prize if he can win all three races. A driver who wins two of the three can win a $250,000 bonus from promotion sponsor Fuzzy's Vodka.

Three-wide starts have been used at Indianapolis since 1921, and were used at Pocono and Ontario (Calif.) Speedway during the 1970s and '80s for the Triple Crown legs.

"After having the opportunity to test at Pocono and a successful event at Auto Club Speedway last season, we were able to analyze track data and compare to our current start procedure for the Indianapolis 500," said IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield. "Given the speeds of our starts, the location of acceleration zones, the spacing between rows and the length of the front straights at each track, we have decided to move forward with a three-wide lineup for the initial starts."

IndyCar ran a "Triple Crown" at Indianapolis, Pocono and Ontario from 1971- 1980 and from 1981-1989 at Indy, Pocono and Michigan. Only Al Unser won all three races in a single season, in 1978.

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RAGAN RETURNS: David Ragan has a lot of ground to cover if he plans to contend for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

A win at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night would go a long way toward that goal.

Ragan heads into Daytona this weekend ranked 29th in the Sprint Cup standings. But he's got a win in his pocket from earlier this season at Talladega, and every reason to believe he can make it two victories on the year Saturday night.

Ragan's only other career Cup victory was in the July race at Daytona in 2011.

"If you can have an incident-free day and I make good decisions the last 15-20 laps, we can win the race," Ragan said. "That's the attitude we have when we go to Daytona. We have a lot of fun at Daytona and we've been successful."

Ragan led just four laps at Talladega, but was out front when it mattered as he and David Gilliland gave tiny Front Row Motorsports a 1-2 upset finish. In all, Ragan has two wins in his last five races at restrictor-plate tracks, and has four top-10 finishes in 10 career races at Daytona.

A win Saturday night could edge him closer to the top 20 in points, where he must be to be eligible for one of two wild-card berths into the Chase. If he could crack the top 20, those two wins would be tough to beat among wild-card contenders.

"Nothing is out of the realm of possibility," he said. "If you get a second win, that's a lot of points, but you need a strong stretch of finishes leading into Richmond. It is something that can make things interesting, but first things first. You got to be there at the end and you got to win the race. It could happen."

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DAYS OF THUNDER: The City Chevrolet paint scheme made famous in the movie "Days of Thunder" will be back on the track this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Kurt Busch will use the paint scheme in Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Daytona, where he will be driving for Phoenix Racing. It's a tribute paint scheme for the one driven by Cole Trickle, played by Tom Cruise in the movie.

The tribute was made possible by Phoenix Racing, Hendrick Automotive Group, Busch and the Armed Forces Foundation, which will have its logo on the rear quarter panel to help draw attention to the "Help Save Our Troops" campaign that aids veterans with post-traumatic stress and brain injuries.

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