- Associated Press - Sunday, February 24, 2013

What will James Franco say at the start of the Daytona 500?

The Oscar-nominated actor is giving drivers the command to fire their machines, a duty that is normally carried out with the most famous words in racing: “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

Of course, this year is different. Danica Patrick will be the first woman to start from the pole in a Cup race, so Franco sounds like he’s planning an audible.

We’ll see if he goes with the command that was used when Patrick raced in the Indianapolis 500, “Lady and gentlemen, start your engines.”

Of course, you never know what Franco has up his sleeve.

_ 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?”

That seems to be the attitude of the fans heading into the Daytona 500, the season-opening Cup race and biggest event on the NASCAR schedule. Most people say it’s worth the risk to sit next to the ear-rattling action _ no more than 20 feet away for those in the first row. They love to hear the engines, smell the exhaust, and feel the wind whipping in their face as 43 cars go by at nearly 200 mph.

Still, there are a few fans fretting about the location of their seats.

Raymond Gober returned to the same location where he was nearly struck by a bolt from Larson’s car. He scooped up the debris as a souvenir, though he acknowledged being a little nervous about his seat on the back row of the lower level. He even considered wearing his motorcycle helmet to the 500, but figured “everybody would start laughing at me.” Next year, he plans to buy an upper-level seat in the main grandstand.

“My dad called and said, `You’re sitting in the same seats? `” Gober said. “He couldn’t believe it.”

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