This has always been an important race weekend for Danica Patrick.
In addition to being focused on a track where she hasn't run her NASCAR Nationwide Series car, the former IZOD IndyCar Series driver had been consumed by Pole Day at the Indianpolis 500.
Patrick, who split time between the two series in 2010 and 2011, has devoted her entire attention to NASCAR Nationwide Series competition for JR Motorsports, but managed to watch some of the qualifying action after Saturday's practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 at Iowa Speedway.
Open-wheel racing has been a passion for Patrick and remains an interest to her.
"I'm curious," Patrick said. "Of course I am. I spent my whole childhood watching open-wheel racing.
"It's been in my blood for (more than) 20 years."
Making it even more compelling, James Hinchcliffe, who assumed Patrick's GoDaddy IndyCar sponsorship, recorded the fastest time during early qualifying Saturday.
"He killed it," said Patrick, whose Nationwide ride is sponsored by GoDaddy. "It's great to see the GoDaddy car in front. I always want my sponsor to win."
She has yet to find Victory Lane in Nationwide but she has claimed one pole and a top-10 finish, sitting 10th in the points standings entering the weekend. The season has been filled with ups and downs. She has experienced some hard racing and some bad luck in her nine starts.
"There's been some great stuff that's happened," Patrick said. "Unfortunately, I feel like only race stuff that's happened hasn't necessarily materialized to a great result in the race. Sometimes it's just your qualifying effort, sometimes it's you're really good in practice, doing things I wasn't doing before."
Patrick said she holds realistic expectations, jokingly asking reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who swept both races at Iowa Speedway last year, if he could make sure she finishes on the lead lap. She is optimistic about how the race weekend opened at Iowa Speedway, feeling very comfortable with how the car handled after practice.
"I think that coming into today, being my third straight track I haven't been to yet, could have been a learning curve," Patrick said. "We got off to a good start."
Patrick's attention split before first Iowa startWritten by Steven B. Wilson
Published in Nationwide Series NewsSunday, 20 May 2012 00:27
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