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MIS notebook: Patrick's frustrating year continues

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Danica Patrick has trouble controlling her emotions after running out of gas with two laps to go in the Firestone Indy 400.

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BROOKLYN, Mich. - Danica Patrick's day at Michigan International Speedway ended with an empty gas tank and a temper tantrum.

Patrick, the second-year race car driver for Rahal Letterman Racing and the only woman on the IndyCar Series circuit, experienced telemetry problems throughout yesterday's Firestone Indy 400. When her car ran out of fuel with two laps to go and coasted to a stop inside turn one, the emotion poured out.

Patrick was banging her fists on the steering wheel as the engine stalled and the car rolled off the track, and she was cursing as she removed her helmet and stormed back down pit road toward her crew.

Patrick sat on the back of her pit stall, her head in her hands, and lamented a long and frustrating day. Patrick finished 17th in the 19-car field.

"I was two just laps from the end and ran out. We just ran out of fuel," she said. "The guys didn't have any of the telemetry all day, so they were just guessing on the fuel."

Patrick, who started eleventh, said running the 400-mile race with a troubled car created insurmountable challenges for her.

"This is just such a hard race, and we were just not fast," she said. "It was a brutal day and a brutal race. We made great stops, and we were pushing so hard, but every time I shifted into sixth, the car just seemed to bog down."

TV BLACKOUT: The 2-hour, 38-minute delay in starting the race, brought on after a strong line of thunderstorms dumped heavy rain on the track, pushed the Firestone Indy 400 off the air. The race had been scheduled to air live on ABC (Channel 13) at 3:30, but when the weather delay was followed by two hours spent drying the track and preparing it for the race, the network chose to stick with its original schedule and then show the race on tape at midnight on ESPN2.

ROOKIES AT MIS: The Firestone Indy 400 featured three rookie drivers. Marco Andretti, who entered the race ranked eighth in the points standings, finished eighth. Andretti came all the way from the back of the pack at 19th to earn 24 points and move up to seventh in the standings.

First-year driver Jeff Simmons took 10th and is 16th in the standings. Fellow rookie Marty Roth came in 18th place and is now tied for 27th.

All three rookies are gunning for the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year award.

DIXON STALLS OUT: Scott Dixon, who entered the race ranked second in the points standings, fell to fourth after finishing 16th. Dixon ran out of fuel on lap 44 before he could make a pit stop, fell two laps down into 18th position, and struggled to come from behind.

Dixon's crew gambled and told him to stay out when the leaders took their first pit on lap 41. But shortly after that a yellow caution was called and Dixon ran out of gas before he could get back to pit row. Dixon's car stalled on lap 44 in between turns three and four and was towed in to pit row.

PENSKE POWER: Helio Castroneves's Penske Racing team has now won seven of 11 races to date.

The racing team, which includes Sam Hornish Jr., has 81 oval wins out of their 131 career wins, which is more than any open-wheel team.

"The entire Penske team was pumped. I'm thrilled to get the win for Roger Penske," Castroneves said.

FIRESTONE 400 FOOTNOTES: Hornish, Castroneves, and Dixon are the only multiple winners on this season's IndyCar series. The Firestone Indy 500 is the only event on the 2006 schedule that takes place on a two-mile track. It was the fifth IndyCar Series event at MIS. Castroneves was the fourth different driver to win at MIS in the last four years. All 19 racers in the field yesterday at the Firestone Indy 400 competed with Firestone brand tires and Honda engines and Dallara chassis.

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