NNS: Patrick Has Another Day Of Learning

Danica Patrick had another rough outing in a stock car, but she wouldn’t compare her 27th-place finish at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway to her 31st-place finish at 2-mile Auto Club Speedway earlier this year.

Patrick finished four laps down at MIS and three laps down at Auto Club.

She obviously, though, was still disappointed in her most recent run, where she fell a lap down early, then lost a couple of laps on a pass-through penalty for failing to blend in at the proper spot after a pit stop.

“Fontana felt worse and Loudon [in June] was a bit of a struggle and they’ve all had their challenges,” Patrick said following the race. “I really felt like we were getting it at the end, so it was really just that first half or three-quarters of the race that felt weird for me.

“The rest of the weekend [in practice and end of race] has been good.”

The race in Michigan was just the sixth in the Nationwide Series start for the 28-year-old IndyCar Series driver.

“I’m sure we learned some significant things today, and … just like normal, if we could have started the race the way we finished it, it would have been a very different story,” Patrick said. “It’s all right. It’s part of it.”

Patrick plans to compete in 13 Nationwide races this year and again in 2011 before deciding whether to give up her full-time ride in the IndyCar Series to pursue a full-time NASCAR career.

She started the race Saturday in the 33rd spot after getting loose in Turn 4 qualifying.

“I [was hoping] I don’t crash,” Patrick said about the early part of the race. “I was loose getting in, loose in the middle, loose getting off. Nothing that I did was really helping it.

“It was painful because I was having to tiptoe on eggshells. … How loose it was in the race I think caught all of us off-guard. We’ll just have to learn from it.”

As for the blend-line penalty, she said while drivers were told in the rookie meeting to keep all the tires below the yellow line until Turn 2 when exiting the pits, no one in practice did that and she just went on instinct from practice.

“I just didn’t do anything different,” Patrick said. “I didn’t know any different. It’s being a rookie.”

Eleventh in the IndyCar Series standings, Patrick’s next NASCAR race will be in September at Dover.

“It was really hard to drive in the beginning,” she said. “It was just really, really loose. I don’t know why. It never felt that loose in practice. … It took some significant adjustments to get it back in the ballpark where I could actually maintain pace.

“I’m really disappointed overall.” • Robert Richardson Jr awake and alert taken to hospital for observation