Patrick: 'I'm Right Where I Need to Be'

Danica Patrick

“All I know is that I’ve done everything I can to prepare for the year, to learn throughout the year and that is what’s going to lead into next year."


TALLADEGA, Ala. - With five races left in her rookie season, Danica Patrick says she’s “right where I need to be.’’

Patrick enters this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway 28th in the points standing with one top-10 finish.

“All I know is that I’ve done everything I can to prepare for the year, to learn throughout the year and that is what’s going to lead into next year,’’ she said.

For two races next year, she’ll have a different look. Aspen Dental announced Friday it will serve as her primary sponsor next year at Las Vegas and Atlanta. Aspen Dental will be an associate sponsor the remaining races. GoDaddy will remain her primary sponsor in all but the two Aspen Dental races.

As for this year, there have been fewer highs than lows for Patrick. 

“I don’t think that you can ever plan how it’s going to go or give yourself a grade because everybody learns at a different rate,’’ she said. “There are times that I probably was unexpectedly better than they thought and worse than they thought.’’

Her best performances often have come at restrictor-plate tracks. She finished eighth in the Daytona 500 and 14th there in July. She admits to feeling comfortable on the plate tracks.

“IndyCar racing on mile-and-a-halves was much like this kind of racing - flat out, close quarters and just trying to do whatever it took to keep the momentum up,’’ she said. “I feel like visually it’s very familiar racing to me. 

“Then it’s being with good teams that have good speedway cars it’s important. I think that has been seen in qualifying.”

She’ll likely spend part of Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500 running with some of the Chase contenders. So will Patrick race them differently with half the Chase over?

“You just have to get on with the racing,’‘ she said. “I feel that, just like with teammates, when you start to tiptoe around someone too much you are not doing what’s normal. Or in some ways not what is expected as a driver.  

“You really have to get on with the job at hand and understand that these races will just play out how they will play out and there will be accidents. You hope that you aren’t the culprit ...  but it’s just the nature of everybody going over 200 mph a couple of inches from each other.”  

After this weekend, the series heads to Martinsville. She finished 12th there.

“I think that what that shows is what is possible when you have a good car to work with,’’ Patrick said. “ I feel like I definitely had that at Martinsville, so the challenge for me this time around will be to not down shift from fourth to third when I come out of the pits and over rev the engine and have to start from the back and, in general, just have a better qualifying run so that I can start further up and work from there.’’ 

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