NNS: Patrick Comfortable, But Still Unsure

JR Motorsports’ Danica Patrick says that she was just getting comfortable in her Nationwide Series car as practice ended at Auto Club Speedway in California. Patrick obviously wasn’t as comfortable as others as she was 27th in final practice Friday for Saturday’s Stater Bros. 300.

While it will be Patrick’s second NASCAR race, it will be her first on a track that is not high-banked and requires much more braking and accelerating than her first race at Daytona International Speedway.

“There are things with it that I’m just not happy with,” Patrick said Friday following final practice. “I’m trying to not only to learn my way around this track in this car and get familiar with what I need and where to be on the track and improve the car, too.

“The tough thing for me is that I don’t know how it’s supposed to feel. Until the car is right, I can’t have an expectation level. It’s like, ‘Do I deal with this? Do I not? Should it feel like that? I don’t like this but maybe it has to be like that? Maybe I always have to drive around this issue?’ I really don’t have any of those answers at this point. It’s only going to come from, in my experience, having something good [that] I want again [in the car].”

Patrick competed in an IndyCar race at Auto Club Speedway in 2005. There was only one preferred line around the 2-mile track in an IndyCar, as opposed to multiple racing grooves in a stock car, and the IndyCar was full-throttle all the way around.

“It’s much different in these cars,” Patrick said. “We made some improvements. I’m still not totally happy, that’s for sure. I’m just not feeling comfortable on entry into the corner. I feel like we’ve made a lot of improvements – maybe better off the corner. To be honest, that will stay there or get better as we improve the entry because your problems on exit start at the beginning.

“We made improvements, but we’re still not there yet. I’m sure we’ll bring more solid changes into [Saturday].”

The 27-year-old IndyCar Series star – the only woman to win an IndyCar race and the highest-finishing woman ever with a third-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 – is scheduled to compete in 13 NASCAR races this year.

In her NASCAR debut, Patrick crashed and finished 35th at Daytona.

Qualifying for the Stater Bros. 300 is scheduled for Saturday morning – Patrick is guaranteed a spot in the field – and the race is Saturday afternoon.

“I just need laps,” Patrick said. “I need to get familiar with how the car changes from the beginning to the end of the run. I’m probably going to be a little bit surprised about how I’m going to have to deal with the car sliding around during the majority of the run.

“I need that to become a normal expectation level for me to deal with.”

Patrick did joke a little bit about her learning process. She said she saw other drivers bumping Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray after the race last Sunday.

“I think it was some sort of a ‘Good job [bump],’” Patrick said. “Is that like a pat on the butt? Was that friendly? … I don’t know what’s normal yet.”•Chevrolet drivers dominate Sprint Cup practice at California