News & Media


Patrick's attention split before first Iowa start

May 19, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

NEWTON, Iowa -- This has always been an important race weekend for Danica Patrick.

In addition to being focused on a track where she hasn't run her Nationwide Series car, the former IndyCar Series driver had been consumed by Pole Day at the Indianpolis 500.

Patrick

Patrick, who split time between the two series in 2010 and '11, has devoted her entire attention to Nationwide Series competition for JR Motorsports, but managed to watch some of the qualifying action after Saturday's practice for the Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 at Iowa Speedway.

Open-wheel racing has been a passion for Patrick and remains an interest to her.

"I'm curious," Patrick said. "Of course I am. I spent my whole childhood watching open-wheel racing.

"It's been in my blood for [more than] 20 years."

Making it even more compelling, James Hinchcliffe, who assumed Patrick's IndyCar sponsorship, recorded the fastest time during early qualifying Saturday.

Patrick has yet to find Victory Lane in Nationwide but she has claimed one pole and a top-10 finish, sitting 10th in the point standings entering the weekend. The season has been filled with ups and downs. She has experienced some hard racing and some bad luck in her nine starts.

"There's been some great stuff that's happened," Patrick said. "Unfortunately, I feel like only race stuff that's happened hasn't necessarily materialized to a great result in the race. Sometimes it's just your qualifying effort, sometimes it's you're really good in practice, doing things I wasn't doing before."

Patrick said she holds realistic expectations, jokingly asking reigning Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who swept both races at Iowa Speedway last year, if he could make sure she finishes on the lead lap. She is optimistic about how the race weekend opened at Iowa, feeling very comfortable with how the car handled after practice.

* Iowa: Race Lineup | Practice Speeds

"I think that coming into [Saturday], being my third straight track I haven't been to yet, could have been a learning curve," Patrick said. "We got off to a good start."