Danica Patrick continues to keep her expectations low heading into this weekend's Nationwide Series race at Michigan but says she is glad to quickly move on from last weekend's disappointing IndyCar race at Mid Ohio.
On Saturday, Patrick will make her sixth start in NASCAR's second-tier series, where she last competed six weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway claiming a 24th place-finish, which is her best result in the series to date. Despite having raced at Michigan in an IndyCar before, she admitted to struggling during her first few laps on the track in the Nationwide car on Thursday during practice, although she was able to build up her speed though two three-hour sessions to finish the day 26th fastest.
"It was nice to be able to slowly get up to speed," said Patrick. "You go out for first practice and everybody knows what they're doing and then there's me who doesn't even know how to go out of the garage area.
"I get out there and everybody is more comfortable getting up to speed, so those first 10 laps seem like I'm looking in the mirror more than anything but I was able just to build up."
Patrick is driving the new Nationwide car for the first time this weekend, although given her lack of experience, she admitted to being unable to mark any clear differences on its handling relative to the old one. She said her realistic target for this weekend remains a top-20 finish, which given her speed in the final practice session on Friday where she was 17th looks to be a reachable aim.
"I think that my expectation levels for this race are going to be similar [to Chicago]," said Patrick. "I'm hoping for a sort of top-15, -20 finish and I didn't quite get into the top-20 last time so I think that expectation level is going to stay the same this weekend and we'll see what we can do.
"Hopefully, we can get up there with the full test day that we had and me kind of having the time to run down low, run in the middle and run up high [on the track's banking]. I didn't see anybody else running high but the team told me just go up there and get a feel for it. Hopefully that pays off in the race."
The IndyCar race winner was glad to be back behind the wheel this week following a disappointing race at Mid-Ohio last Sunday, where he finished down in 22nd place. She admits her IZOD IndyCar Series season has been a struggle despite also putting on some of her strongest performances of her career. She believes her Andretti Autosport team is lacking performance relative to Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing.
"The IndyCar season has been a disappointing one," said Patrick. "I've had probably my best road course and oval races of my career but it comes against a bunch of very mediocre races. Mid Ohio was one of them.
"I think as a team we have really struggled on the road courses this year – granted, the competition is extremely close. In the old days, one second covering 25 cars would seem unlikely – but it's the case these days."
"The fact that we're lacking something is really obvious now so, it's good to get out here and forget about last weekend. But it is important to think about that and learn for next weekend at Sonoma. It'll be the last road course of our season."
Patrick currently ranks 11th in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings, behind her three Andretti Autosport teammates.