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Patrick Brings Momentum To Loudon

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 23 2010

Danica Patrick will be back on the Nationwide beat this weekend in New Hampshire. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

When Danica Patrick returns to NASCAR this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, she won’t be alone. Coming with her is a healthy does of momentum.

Will it help?

Good question, she said this week. And the answer? Tune in on Saturday.

“It’s still a whole new weekend with expectation levels and people to impress and me not wanting to let myself down on what I think is possible,” Patrick said.

For much of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season, Patrick had been viewed as a bit of a flop. She was finishing well back in fields.

Through the first four races of the season – all on road or street courses – her average finish was 14th.

Speculation for the disappointing start to the season ranged from slow cars to a lack of interest on Patrick’s part.

But in early May, the IndyCar schedule moved over to a stretch of four straight oval races and Patrick responded with a string of four straight top-11 finishes. That string included a sixth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 and a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

Now, it’s a return to NASCAR and the Nationwide Series in which she raced three times at the beginning of the season.

With a best finish of 31st in that three-race outing, Patrick was less than sterling in her NASCAR debut.

But this week, some are wondering if her recent successes in IndyCar will continue with her when she slides into her J.R. Motorsports car in New Hampshire.

“I think that it can keep going,” Patrick said this week. “It can stop. I don’t know. I mean, it was a little bit of a tough weekend in Iowa in the Indy car (last weekend when she finished 10th). But I think we still made the most of what was a difficult weekend.”

One thing which will surely come with Patrick back to NASCAR, she said, is a positive attitude.

“I think that the roles kind of come from everybody around you being upbeat and positive and on their game,” Patrick said. “And that includes, if it was in an IndyCar, that includes those IndyCar people. So perhaps it does not carry on over into another series with another group of guys. But, then, again, my confidence is there.

“I’m eager to learn the Nationwide car. And I think that – I think that the best thing I can do for myself on the NASCAR weekends is really come up with some realistic expectation levels instead of having them be like IndyCar expectation levels where I’m hoping to win and I’m hoping to finish on the podium, those kinds of things.

“Those are probably a little bit more unrealistic in Nationwide at this point for how much I still have to learn. So that’s probably the best way that I can come away with momentum coming from Loudon, would be to set a realistic expectation level, and hopefully that happens.”

The Nationwide car in which Patrick started the year has been manned by a fairly large cast of seat warmers. None have come close to winning a race.

Her thoughts about watching her car struggle with others in it?

Doesn’t have any, she said, because she hasn’t been watching.

“It’s kind of one weekend at a time for me,” Patrick said. “I’m home for sort of a day or two here and there. And then it’s off to the next one. So I’ve been very focused on the IndyCar stuff and trying to do a good job and trying to get up there and get a win, and that’s definitely taken, dominated a lot of my time.

“But I’ve kept in touch, and we’ve tested a little bit, and we’re trying to make sure that I’m ready to go for Loudon and get familiar again. So just those kinds of things, and now this week preparing for that race, I’ll get to the track and I’ll find out more about the car.”

And the racing world may find out a little bit about series to series transference of momentum.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 23 2010