Patrick returns to site of NASCAR-record finish

Danica Patrick is off to a rough start in her first full season of Nationwide Series competition, but she might be in luck this weekend, as Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the next stop on the schedule.

Patrick's fourth-place finish one year ago at Las Vegas put her in the NASCAR record books. She became the highest finishing female ever in a NASCAR national touring series race.

Currently 21st in points, Patrick is betting on another strong performance at Las Vegas.

"I think the expectation for this week is a top-10 finish," she said. "We ran well on the mile and halves last year. I get along better with the banked tracks with more grip. They're a little more of a translation from my experience in IndyCar. That's why Texas and Vegas and places like that are good for me because that's more of what I am used to."

Mark Martin, the defending race winner, will make his first start in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. As of now, Martin's only Nationwide event with JGR is Las Vegas, but additional races could be added later in the season.

"Their Nationwide Series program is one that has had everyone's attention for years," Martin said. "They've won a lot of races and had great cars, and they've been the premier Nationwide Series program for a few years. So I couldn't be more excited to get a chance to work with them."

Martin has four wins in six Nationwide starts at Las Vegas. Last year there, he gave Turner Motorsports its first victory in the series.

As a previous driver of JGR's No. 18 car, Kyle Busch is now behind the wheel of his own No. 54 Toyota. Busch has yet to win a Nationwide race at his hometrack. In fact, he has failed to finish in three of the last four events there.

Busch holds the series record for most wins with 51, while Martin is second on the list with 49.

Elliott Sadler comes to Las Vegas with a 10-point lead over rookie driver and Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon. Last Saturday at Phoenix, Sadler won a Nationwide race for the first time since the 1998 fall event at Rockingham, NC.

"Momentum is huge in this sport," Sadler said. "Our team is so strong and so focused that I know the win last week at Phoenix will just add to our drive. We have one goal, and that is to win the championship, and I think this week we will continue to go along with our game plan."

Sadler finished a distant second to champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the 2011 Nationwide point standings.

Forty-three drivers are on the preliminary entry list for Saturday's Sam's Town 300.

Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, March 10. Race: Sam's Town 300. Site: Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 5:00 p.m. (et). Laps: 200. Miles: 300. 2011 Winner: Mark Martin. Television: ESPN 2. Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.