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March 10th, 2012
Danica Patrick believes she probably set herself too high a target for her first full NASCAR Nationwide Series season, following poor results in the opening two races.
Although the former IndyCar star has already contested 27 Nationwide events since 2010, this is the first time she has embarked on a full-season assualt.
JR Motorsports driver Patrick was involved in an incident early in the season-opening race at Daytona and last week she was only 21st at Phoenix, where she had competed in NASCAR three times previously.
“I think I gave myself maybe a little bit of false expectation about running this year for the championship and using those words ‘for the championship’,” said Patrick.
“It really is still my first-ever full year and what I’ve done still doesn’t add up to one year and I didn’t have anything before that in stock cars.”
Patrick admitted the hype she was surrounded by at the start of the season may have affected her as she tried to live up to expectations. The female racer received substantially more media coverage than anyone else in the American press during the build up to this year’s season start.
“I can’t let all of the exposure and hype and hope – and I’m serious when I say ‘hope’ – to do well, I can’t let that be something that makes me feel like I have to do well,” said Patrick.
“That got to me a little bit, especially coming from Daytona having such disappointing results. I need to remember that there are so many of these darn races and you just need to move on.”
2010 Nationwide champion Brad Keselowski, who also drove for JR Motorsports in the past, believes the current testing regulations will make Patrick’s transition even harder than it has been for other open-wheel racers who moved to NASCAR before her.
“I think the biggest challenge she has is finding a way around that testing ban and getting experience,” said the Penske driver. “Everyone will tell you that race experience is the best experience. It is and it isn’t because you don’t really get a chance to learn on what you need to do to get more speed.
“You can learn on what you need to do to survive the race, that’s great, but that’s only 50 per cent of it. You’ve got to be fast and talented as well. And so she’s obviously behind before the weekend ever starts, as is every Nationwide rookie and there’s challenges ahead for her.
“I guess at the end of the day, if she can overcome those challenges and find a way to be successful, then she will have really earned a spot in this sport. But the odds are very much stacked against her.”
Patrick competes this weekend at Las Vegas, where she claimed a career-high fourth place a year ago.