Misfortune Shadows Patrick In Sonoma

D.Patrick

Patrick puts her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet through the paces Friday at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo: Getty Images)

SONOMA, Calif. - When Danica Patrick walked into the rookie drivers meeting Friday at Sonoma Raceway, she saw a familiar face.

It was Jacques Villeneuve, the driver who wrecked her on the last lap of last year’s Nationwide Series race at Road America as she ran fourth.  Their conversation was brief.  Both acknowledged each other, according to Patrick, and that was it in their first meeting since last year.

"After the things that have happened, it’s hard to have a lot of respect for somebody like that," Patrick said.  "I respect what he’s done in his career but the way he treats other drivers on the track, I can’t.  There’s all there is to say."

The history with Villeneuve is just part of a series of twists at road courses that have struck Patrick and denied her the finishes - even a win, possibly - that she has seemed headed toward.

Beyond the Villeneuve incident, she finished last in the Nationwide race at Watkins Glen International.  Ryan Truex spun in front of her at the start and she made heavy contact with his car, ending her day.  Then there was Montreal.  Leading, she ran over a shoe that had been thrown on the course.  She had to pit for mechanical repairs soon after.  Instead of contending for a win, she finished 27th.

Race long enough and every driver can compile a trail of woes that makes them feel as if a track owes them.  Patrick has put together quite a list quickly on the road courses.

"You have to keep plugging," Patrick said.  "For every up, there is a down.  It doesn’t mean it's going to come next, but it will come eventually."

Just as Villeneuve is familiar to Patrick, so is Sonoma.  She’s raced at this track seven times when she competed in the IZOD IndyCar Series.  That experience, though, didn’t help.

"I hoped being here before would have made it a little better for me, but it didn’t," Patrick said after the first of the two practice sessions Friday, where she was 31st on the speed chart.  "I kept going through Turns 3 and 3A, and thinking to myself, 'Is it because I’m doing it like I did in IndyCar that I’m terrible through here and I can’t get the car to turn?' " she said.

In the second practice session, things weren’t much better as Patrick was 35th-fastest and ran off the course on one lap. For all her struggles, she might have had it a little better than Denny Hamlin.  Although he was 17th, he spun and backed his car into the tire barrier.  The team made repairs to avoid going to a back-up car.

Clint Bowyer, the defending race winner, was the fastest in the second practice session with a lap of 94.556 mph.  He was followed by Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya.  Marcos Ambrose, who was fastest in the first practice session, was eighth in the second session.

Even with the struggles Friday, Patrick said she’s encouraged with how she has run in recent weeks, including a 13th-place finish last weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

"Over the last four or five weeks, we've been in position to get those kinds of finishes," she said.  "We were all thinking it was overdue from where we had been speed-wise and the potential we had.  It’s a relief to get something of a result, finally."

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