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Danica Patrick hopes new colors are winning combination

Source: Detroit News

Indianapolis -- Danica Patrick took one quick glance at her nifty, new orange-and-black car Friday and thought back to 2007.

It was that year her ex-teammate, Dario Franchitti, won the Indianapolis 500 in a car bearing the same colors.

No, Patrick doesn't expect a different paint job to give her that coveted Indy win later this month, but she figures it can't hurt, either.

"I think the colors are really sporty and very cool," she said. "It sort of reflects how I am, edgy and fun."

Patrick looked like a different person during the extravagant ceremony held at Indianapolis International airport.

Her familiar intense stare was replaced by smiles and jokes. She seemed to savor the moment crew members pushed her No. 7 car out of a trailer through smoke and onto a temporary checkered floor. Gone was the traditional light blue-and-black scheme, and the sidepod that carried the banner for Boost Mobile, an unlimited cell phone service that is being promoted by Motorola, her primary sponsor the past several years.

But the first woman to win an IndyCar race certainly does not need an overhaul to be competitive.

After winning in Japan last year, she opened this season with finishes of 15th at St. Petersburg, fourth at Long Beach and fifth last weekend at Kansas. She ranks sixth in the points standings heading into the biggest race of the IndyCar season, May 24.

And Indianapolis has always been one of her best tracks.

She burst onto the scene here as a rookie in 2005, becoming the first woman to lead a lap at the historic 2.5-mile oval before finishing fourth. The 27-year-old from Roscoe, Ill., has never qualified worse than 10th at Indy and has three top-10 finishes in four career starts.

This year, she wants more.

"I wouldn't drive for a team unless I thought they were capable of winning," she said. "We do everything to make sure this is the race we win this season, and I see no reason that we can't keep this up."

One reason is that Patrick is more relaxed.

She waved to the television cameras before racing a Boeing 717 plane, then returned to do a burnout right in front of the cameras after beating the plane. Afterward, she apologized for getting people wet from the wet concrete in front of the airplane hangar.

Still, Patrick is likely to be dogged by one consistent question all month: Will she continue driving for Andretti Green Racing next season.

Patrick's three-year deal with AGR expires after this season, fueling speculation that the series could lose its most marketable personality to either NASCAR or Formula One.

If team co-owner Michael Andretti has his way, it won't happen.

Andretti said Friday that he and Patrick have discussed an extension, though no deal is in place.

And Andretti would like to get it completed quickly.

"Yeah, yesterday," he said, when asked if there was a time frame. "Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. I've talked with her directly and she has expressed that she really wants to be here and we want her to be here."

Patrick did not discuss the negotiations Friday.

Instead, she is intent on achieving the biggest win of her career.

"I'm really comfortable and feeling good about the other drivers on our team," she said. "There's a level of comfort and a level of friendship, and I think we've got that this year. I've been having a lot of fun this year. I just keep thinking Dario won a couple of years ago in orange-and-black."
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