Danica Patrick had another disappointing day in her NASCAR racing experiment, but she learned Saturday what it’s like to drive with a car damaged early in a race.


Patrick had contact with Morgan Shepherd on lap 7 of the New England 200 at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway. She went down a lap because of the spin and then lost four more laps throughout the course of the event to finish 30th – her best finish in her four career Nationwide Series starts.

“It’s disappointing to go down a lap so early, it’s disappointing to start the race with car damage, it’s disappointing to get lapped so many times,” said the 28-year-old IndyCar Series driver, who will compete in 13 Nationwide races for JR Motorsports this year. “Then again, I was thinking out there at the end that it reminds me a lot of my first short oval races in an IndyCar. I got lapped a ton of times in those.

“It’s part of the process; it’s part of learning. I know these things are going to happen. There’s a lot of really good drivers out here and I was learning how to set people up and pass and how much track to use. I did learn a lot. It was important to finish these laps and I’ll be much better off next time.”

Competing in her first NASCAR race since late February, Patrick would have been better off if she didn’t have the early spin. In three of her four Nationwide races, Patrick has been involved in an accident.

“All I know is that I was sort of a quarter into the corner around [turns] 1 and 2 and I got bumped and sideways,” Patrick said. “I tried to save it. I don’t know if I was supposed to hit the gas or something. I think these cars, maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do? I don’t know.

“It’s completely counter-intuitive from driving an IndyCar. I just got on the brakes and tried to slow the car down once I couldn’t catch it a second time.”

Patrick said it would have been a "bummer" if she couldn’t continue after the incident, which Shepherd said was mostly a racing accident.

“I wasn’t the only one she was holding up, she was holding up other cars too – she will learn it,” Shepherd said. “There’s two [lanes], right around the bottom and kind of the middle of the track. You really can’t run all that high.

“She just made it hard to pass. We just got together when we went down in the corner. She squeezed me a little bit and we got together and that’s all there was to it.”

On the ensuing restart, Patrick delivered a soft tap into the back of Shepherd, which she said was not a payback but just, again, part of her learning process.

“You’re trying to get close; you’re trying to have good starts and restarts,” Patrick said. “You’re trying to get as much as you can in the corners. That’s one other thing I learned today: You slide around a lot out there and a lot of it you can’t really help.”

The accident might have cost her some front downforce, Patrick said, as there was damage to the left front fender.

“It never got to the point where it was too loose, that’s for sure,” Patrick said.

Crew chief and JRM co-owner Tony Eury Jr. said the day was productive.

“I think she learned a lot and saw how we race on these short tracks,” Eury Jr. said. “It’s going to be a lot of depth perception, [learning] what techniques … to get past a guy. It’s a bigger learning curve than most people think.”

The learning curve came in how to just run the track and how to race others. Patrick often asked Eury Jr. during the race if she was doing things the right way.

“I heard before the race started that if you slide in the corner, just straighten the wheel up and get next to them, they’ll do that to you,” Patrick said. “Towards the later quarter/half of the race, I was starting to brake down low and let the car slide up the track and take my spot instead of trying to respect the lane.

“In IndyCars, you respect the lane that you’re in because you can’t touch. You’ll either crash or flip or have something really bad happen. It’s breaking that mentality of holding your lane that I’m learning.”

Patrick said she tried to be respectful to the leaders as she went down the five laps.

“I’d much rather look like a fair driver who is going to give them room when it’s not my day out there,” Patrick said. “I think those kinds of things come around.”

With her first four NASCAR races – Daytona, California, Las Vegas and New Hampshire – being a “mixed bag,” Patrick won’t be taking another four months off before her next NASCAR start. She’ll be racing in two weeks at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I thank all those people out there that still want to keep watching me,” Patrick said. “It can’t be fun to watch the driver you’re cheering for to go laps down and get passed.

“But I’m learning and it will help me get better. … I’m sure going back to a mile-and-a-half again [at Chicagoland] will be good and also having been to Vegas, a mile-and-a-half that’s similar, we’ll have a basic setup to start with and hopefully we should be better off to start.”


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