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Ryan Briscoe’s Danica Patrick connection

INDIANAPOLIS IN - MAY 20:  Ryan Briscoe pole sitter for Indianpolis 500 driver IZOD Team Penske car poses track

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 20: Ryan Briscoe the pole sitter for the Indianpolis 500 and driver of the IZOD Team Penske car poses on the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 20, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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Updated: July 3, 2012 9:15AM

I ndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe can’t seem to escape being asked about Danica Patrick, even though Patrick left the IZOD IndyCar series to race NASCAR full-time. ­Briscoe’s wife, Nicole, went to Rockton-Hononegah High School with Patrick and both hail from Roscoe, Ill.

“It’s funny how so many people don’t know that,” Briscoe said. “Nicole was a couple years ahead of Danica and they were cheerleaders together. When we first started going out, she’d say, ‘I’m going to Roscoe for Thanksgiving.’ And I’d say, ‘Why are you going to Danica’s town?’

“I’m not too familiar with [Danica stories] because I don’t think they were that close. They didn’t socialize too much.”

Briscoe, who was in Chicago on Tuesday signing autographs at an IZOD promotion at Macy’s on State Street, was still awed that he will start on the pole during Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 for Penske Racing. The 30-year old Austrailian has been on the front row before, but has never started from the first position.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Briscoe, who has never won the Indy 500. “It’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last seven years. I’ve been knocked off the pole before, so this felt so good. It’s not like winning the pole at any other race.”

But the only thing that worries Briscoe is the weather. Temperatures for race day are predicted to go into the mid-90s, making even the prerace spectacle uncomfortable.

“Yeah, that’s what my phone told me this morning,” Briscoe said. “I think a lot of it is drinking lots of fluids in the morning and I have a drink system in the car, so I’ll have to remember to drink — it’s easy to forget.”

But back to Danica. Was Briscoe — and others — surprised that she left for NASCAR.

“She eased her way into NASCAR and we all knew she was going to go,” Briscoe said. “It’s been a bit different, but there’s so much else to talk about this year. It’s sort of gone unnoticed.”

Tina Akouris

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