Saturday, March 19, 2011

Danica headed to IndyCar after modest Nationwide run

Danica headed to IndyCar after modest Nationwide run

Posted to: Auto Racing Sports

Danica Patrick’s debut at Bristol ends her four-race Nationwide run to start the season. She’ll be back in the series in June. <span class='credit'>(Chris Trotman | NASCAR for Getty Images)</span>
Danica Patrick’s debut at Bristol ends her four-race Nationwide run to start the season. She’ll be back in the series in June. (Chris Trotman | NASCAR for Getty Images)

Danica Patrick leaves NASCAR after this weekend, but she'll be back.
And she might even stay.
Patrick's four-race Nationwide run to start the NASCAR season ends with her Bristol debut today. She then heads to the IndyCar series and won't compete in another Nationwide event until early June.
Beyond the eight Nationwide races she has left after today is the decision on where she'll race next season.
Will it be NASCAR or IndyCar?
Patrick has said it's too early to make that decision. Should her performances continue to improve, though, NASCAR could be viewed as the logical choice with its higher visibility and potential to enhance her image.
Of foremost concern for Patrick, however, is racing at Bristol. The high-banked, half-mile track is unlike anything she's raced. It's tough for regular drivers, let alone those dabbling in the series.
"It's kind of an intimidating place," Carl Edwards said of Bristol after winning the pole Friday for Sunday's Sprint Cup race. "It's such a tough race track."
Patrick has heard the warnings.
Just as she did last year when she ran Dover for the first time, finishing 35th in her debut there last fall.
Such experiences keep Patrick grounded, even after placing fourth - the best finish by any female driver in NASCAR history - in the Nationwide race at Las Vegas two weeks ago.
Patrick is realistic of what to expect today.
"It would be nice to have a good finish, and I think it's definitely a possibility, but I'm not expecting that," she said. "Probably even a top-20 would be something that I would be OK with here just because it's so different and so new. My expectations are definitely reeled in for this one."
Mark Martin is confident in what Patrick can do.
"With the progress that I have seen, I think that this is going to be not a major shocker," he said. "She is showing a lot of progress."
Patrick finished 14th at Daytona, followed it with a 17th at Phoenix and a fourth at Las Vegas.
Her best finish in 12 Nationwide starts last year was 19th.
While there are many challenges left for Patrick, it doesn't help that Goodyear is bringing in a different set of tires for teams to run today after problems with the tires originally brought in. That will add to the challenge of Bristol.
When Patrick arrived Thursday afternoon, she went to see the track, something she admits she doesn't often do.
"I thought I'd better see this place first," she said.
She got into a pace car with fellow competitor Justin Allgaier and he gave her some tips.
"I kind of wonder how they run at any short track, let alone this," Patrick said. "It's going to be pretty close quarters, and like they say, either somebody is holding you up or you're holding someone up. I'm sure that will be the battle."
As she leaves NASCAR for nearly three months, Patrick is much different than a year ago, when she ran the first three races and then went back to IndyCar for a few months.
Modest success is building.
"I definitely feel more comfortable at this point now than I did last year," Patrick said. "I feel like I know more of what I need out of the car."

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