By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
FORT WORTH, Texas - Danica Patrick returns to racing at Texas Motor Speedway carrying the memory of what happened the last time she competed on a 1.5-mile oval.
Patrick was one of the fortunate drivers who avoided the 15-car wreck that killed two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In her return to action in the Nationwide Series, Patrick and sponsor GoDaddy.com have opted to run a car that honors Wheldon's memory. On the hood is Wheldon's personal mantra "Lionheart." The DanWheldonMemorial.com website is featured on the TV panel of Patrick's No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
Patrick also will donate the helmet she uses at Texas to an auction in support of the memorial, as well donating the prize money she wins in Saturday's O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide race.
Patrick says carrying Wheldon's memory on her car and on her helmet provides a degree of solace for the loss of a champion driver.
"It feels comforting in a way, to be honest," Patrick said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. "I kind of feel like I have a little angel, in a way. I'll tell you what, when they pop the hood open and work on the car, to see "Lionheart"-that's all I have to stare at while I'm sitting in my car waiting for changes-it's a cool thing.
"It's a privilege, and, like I said, it's almost a little comforting."