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FORT WORTH, Texas - Even though Danica Patrick and Dan Wheldon have made up with a long talk and a hug, those banners promoting "The Rumble at the Speedway" were still prominently displayed around the track Friday.

"That stuff's pretty funny," said Scott Dixon, Wheldon's teammate. "That's good."

Texas Motor Speedway immediately began promoting the race as the second round between "The Phoenix Firebird" and "The Battlin' Brit" after Patrick angrily confronted and shoved Wheldon on pit row Sunday because of their on-track collision at Milwaukee.

Wheldon and Patrick more than added to the promotion when they first arrived in Texas this week. Both had pointed comments toward the other driver and their rivalry was still simmering.

But after meeting privately with Indy Racing League president Brian Barnhart on Thursday, they hugged and said everything was OK between them.

"It was productive, and really the most important thing in all of this is we don't go out on the track and take it out on each other," Patrick, the Andretti Green driver, said Friday night after qualifying sixth. "I wanted to make sure the air was clear between the two of us."

They race Saturday night on the 1½-mile Texas track, where some of the IndyCar Series' most intense, fastest and closest races have been run.

Scott Sharp, a nine-time IndyCar Series winner in his first season with Rahal Letterman Racing, won the pole for the Bombardier Learjet 550 with a qualifying lap of 215.260 mph. It is his sixth career pole, but first since 2001 at Kentucky.

"This is just the beginning. There are huge teams that go everywhere and run well," Sharp said. "We gained some momentum at Indy and had a good weekend in Milwaukee. So far, so good here. … The pole shows how far this team has come."

Sharp (2000, 2001) is one of four two-time winners at Texas, where his seven top-five finishes are the most by any driver. Rahal Letterman hasn't won in the series since Buddy Rice's three victories in 2004.

Sam Hornish Jr. of Team Penske qualified second at 214.518 mph for what will be the longest IndyCar race ever at Texas, with 28 more laps this year - from 200 to 228. Andretti Green drivers Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan start on the second row.

"It's just going to probably be 28 laps more exciting for the fans," said Wheldon, who qualified 10th. "It's good for the drivers. Anytime you can make a race longer, I think we like that. But from the standpoint of the way we approach the race, I don't think it will change anything too much."

Everybody still expects a lot of wheel-to-wheel racing at speeds around 210 mph and another close finish. Two of the IRL's five-closest races have been in Texas, where the last 10 races finished under green flag were decided by less than a half-second - and six of those were by less than one-tenth of a second.

"All of us drivers love these circuits," said Dixon, the former CART driver who won the IndyCar Series title in his 2003 debut. "It's definitely a different kind of racing than I think all of us have come from, but have learned to love. It's great for the fans and I think it's going to be exciting from start to finish."

Dixon had the fastest lap in practice Thursday at 214.164 mph and was second-fastest Friday at 214.040 before he crashed coming out of the second turn onto the backstretch. Something broke on the right rear of his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, which slammed hard into the wall. Dixon wasn't hurt, then qualified seventh in a backup car.

Already a two-time runner-up at Texas, Dixon has a stretch of nine straight races - all six this season - in which he has finished second or fourth. He is third in season points, only two behind teammate Wheldon, who has won twice this season, and five behind Franchitti, the Indianapolis 500 winner.

"We're sort of stuck into these second and fourth places, which is a bit frustrating," Dixon said. "We definitely want to get a race win, and this team is very capable of it."

Dixon was second at TMS last June, finishing 0.240 seconds behind Helio Castroneves. Wheldon, after leading 171 laps, finished third because of a botched pit stop late in the race.

Nobody has been talking about last year.

All of the attention this week has been on the dispute between Patrick and Wheldon, the Englishman who won the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series title in 2005.

Banners at TMS feature a "tale of the tape" for Patrick and Wheldon. Another banner has a picture of TMS president Eddie Gossage with boxing promoter Don King.

So who would Dixon put his money on if there was actually a boxing match between the two drivers?

"Definitely Danica," Dixon said.

"I like Scott Dixon a little better now," Patrick said.

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