Danica Patrick is hoping to finish her first NASCAR race, as she makes her second start in the Nationwide Series today at Fontana.
The IndyCar racer had a troubled debut in NASCAR's second-tier series at Daytona last week, where she had to retire after being involved in a multi-car crash after the halfway mark of the event. Despite that, her debut got the highest cable TV ratings ever for a Nationwide Series event in the United States.
This weekend Patrick has not been as much in the spotlight, as she continues to learn the ropes in her new environment. After being 37th and 27th fastest in two practice sessions on Friday, she admitted she was still struggling with the handling of her car at a track where high speeds but low banking pose a new challenge for the IndyCar Series star.
"We've made some improvements for sure but I'm still not totally happy," said Patrick. "I'm just not feeling very comfortable on entry into the corners. I feel like we've made a lot of improvements to make it better off the corner, and to be honest that will only stay there or get better as we improve the entry because your problems on exit start at the beginning."
Patrick said her goal for this weekend is to make it to the checkered flag and continue to get more mileage under her belt. She anticipates a tough day behind the wheel, as she tries to familiarize herself with her car sliding around for a whole run, something she admits is a novelty.
"Finishing is definitely always the goal," she said. "I just need laps. I need to get familiar with how the car changes from the beginning to the end of a run. I'm probably going to be a bit surprised by how I'm going to have to deal with the car sliding around for the majority of the run and I need that to become a normal expectation level for me that I deal with. Being able to make changes on pit stops and improve it to move up in the race, since you get more comfortable and confident with it, are always very important early on in your career."
Patrick will be back next week for her third Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas, where she will be driving fresh from an IndyCar preseason test at Barber Motorsports Park during the week. She does not expect switching from one car to the other to be a problem, though.
"Well we're going to get our first look at how it's going to go," said Patrick. "I don't think it's going to be a huge problem. I tested an Indy car a few weeks ago and I was like, 'This thing is snappy and this thing turns really quick', so I'm sure it will happen again to me. We'll deal with that when it comes and I'm sure I'll be comfortable in a lap or two."
Patrick qualified nearly two seconds off the pace for today's 300-mile race at Auto Club Speedway.