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Over the first 10 laps, she settled in behind Gordon and held on to the second spot in the 43-car field.

Patrick went on the radio before the race to thank her crew for giving her such a strong car. “I’ll do the best job I can to do my end of the deal today,” she said. “All in all, thank you for everything. You guys are awesome.”

_ Paul Newberry _ http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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FRANCO’S AUDIBLE: “Drivers … and Danica!!! … start your engines.”

With that unique command, actor James Franco has ordered the 43 cars to fire up for the Daytona 500.

The duty is normally carried out with the most famous words in racing: “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

Of course, this year is different. Danica Patrick is the first woman to start from the pole in a Cup race, and Franco hinted beforehand that he was planning an audible. As unpredictable as ever, he passed on a chance to copy the command that was used when Patrick raced in the Indianapolis 500, “Lady and gentlemen, start your engines.”

Now, it’s time to go racing at Daytona.

_ Paul Newberry _ http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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A HEARTY BUNCH: NASCAR FANS RETURN TO DANGER ZONE: Say this about NASCAR fans: They don’t frighten easily.

One day after a harrowing crash injured dozens of fans in the stands, those same seats are filling up for the Daytona 500.

No one seems too concerned.

“These should be good seats,” said Rick Barasso, as he settled into a spot that was right in the danger zone when Kyle Larson’s car slammed into the catch fencing on the final lap of a Nationwide Series race Saturday. “I mean, what are the chances of it happening again?”

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