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Original Issue

DANICA'S LAST DAYS

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THE RACE CAR driver Danica Patrick will appear in her final NASCAR race, the Daytona 500, on Feb. 18. Before embarking on what's being called the Danica Double (she'll take her last laps at the Indy 500 in May), she spoke about her final chapter.

SI: You said something in a recent interview: "If this is the end, a certain portion of me has to die. A part of my identity will go away." How are you dealing with that prospect?

DP: It's not like everyone will automatically forget I was a race car driver, but I have to let go of that being my existing identity—and have it become something that was my identity. Sometimes the fear has a lot more to do with whether [there] will be a new identity, and will it be what I want it to be.

SI: Had your results been different, would you still be in this position, walking away?

DP: No. I would still be in the third year of my contract right now if my sponsor [Stewart-Haas] had not left, but they did not leave because of results. They left for various other reasons that I don't think will ever be clear or fair. But they left. I would have pushed harder to keep going.

SI: How do you think you will be feeling at Indy?

DP: It will be nostalgic. It's one thing to say I am retiring, and it'll be another thing when it finally happens. My drive to do well will be really high.

SI: If everything magically went right for you in May and you won Indy, would you still retire?

DP: Oh, my God, I would just die. It would be the perfect way to walk away.

"IT'S ONE THING TO SAY I AM RETIRING, AND IT'LL BE ANOTHER THING WHEN IT FINALLY HAPPENS. MY DRIVE TO DO WELL [AT INDY] WILL BE REALLY HIGH."

TELL ME WHY ... PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT EARLY

"There was a warm sun, a clear sky, no wind, and a thermometer in the eighties," recounted a New York Times story from spring training in 1905—the first year all AL and NL teams headed south to gear up for the season. Clark Griffith, manager of the New York Highlanders, "devoted his time to watching the pitching recruits," and for good reason: Griffith's position players weren't required to show up in Montgomery, Ala., for another week. The purpose behind this century-old ritual has always been somewhat murky—in a Times story from 1914, Brooklyn skipper Charles Ebbets was said to require his pitchers and catchers to report early "for the baths and road work"—but then, as now, there was also a belief that pitchers and their battery mates needed more time to hone their craft before facing teammates in live batting practice. As Sandy Koufax once said, "People writing about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball."