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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Danica’s not expecting miracles, and neither should her fans

It’s back.

Danica Patrick mania has returned to the NASCAR circuit this weekend at New Hampshire, and all her fans are hoping she can do a good job and impress the world with her stock car skills.

They’re hoping Danica will go out on the track, tear through the field and run up front with the big boys in the Nationwide series.

Thankfully, though, Danica herself has more realistic expectations. Speaking to the press early in the week, prior to her arrival at a New Hampshire track where she had never raced, Danica was very honest about her chances.

“I hope this weekend I finish in the top 20 or the top 15. And kind of build myself up,” she said. “I didn't really set any expectation levels in the first few races that I did. And I think it would have paid off to do that, even in qualifying, set some expectation levels. Like I've had a tough time because qualifying is so different in those cars, you never experience the amount of grip or the kind of car that you get in qualifying until you're really in qualifying. So that takes some learning. So to say, hey, look, qualifying in the top 20 and maybe finishing in the top 15, that would be great. And build myself up from there and then hopefully one day they'll be the same expectation levels that I have in IndyCar. But I think it's best for my confidence and my morale to set those kinds of expectation levels.”

I like to hear her talk like this, because it shows he understands her situation. She is a guest in this series, trying to prove she can make it in NASCAR. While she should remain confident, going out and saying she’s going to lead laps and contend for wins in this trial phase of her NASCAR career would be foolish and just annoy everyone in the NASCAR garage. She knows that only with time will she learn to finish better and through those finishes earn the respect of the competition.

For example, she was almost dead last in the first Nationwide practice session at New Hampshire. By final practice, she had risen to 24th out of the 40+ cars that were attempting the race. In that time, she figured something out about the car and the track that helped her improve, and you can bet that learning will continue to happen during the race Saturday. That is what she is doing here in NASCAR in 2010 – learning. If she learns enough, maybe it will lead to a more permanent home for her in the future.

If I were Danica’s Indy team, I’d be a little concerned. During the interview she hinted that when she envisions her future in racing, NASCAR racing is what she envisions.
“We first have to go through this process and run Nationwide and see how it goes and see what kind of things are in the future for me,” she said, then added: “If you had the opportunity to drive for Mr. Hendrick and NASCAR, then that's a fantastic opportunity that anyone should take. And maybe I'll be lucky enough one day. But I think we have a lot to go through to get to that point.”

Danica has had some ups and downs this season, a rough start followed by a string of three top-10 in Indy car and a near win. Despite this roller coaster, she says she tries to keep her head up.
“You're going, going, going sometimes it's a little easy to get a little negative and it's important to look at the good things. And I'm really fortunate that I get to do all of this and race this many races. So I feel lucky, and I'm going to keep that attitude and keep on going,” she said.

Staying in a driver’s seat, whether it’s NASCAR or Indycar, is the key, she said, to continued improvement in her finishes in both series.
“I don't see how racing cars can make you a worse race car driver. So I put every ounce of effort into everything that I do. I think it's good for any race car driver to be in the seat a lot, and that's definitely what I'm doing.”
Despite her recognition that she likely won’t top the scoring charts this weekend, Patrick is still hopeful for the future.
“As one of my friends told me, you're one good race -- you're one weekend away from turning it around, because it just takes one. It could be any one. It could be a NASCAR race. It could be an IndyCar race. It just so happens I've had a couple of good runs in the last few weeks. And I'm sure that helps my confidence a little bit. But it's still a whole new weekend with expectation levels and people to impress and me not wanting to let myself down on what I think is possible.”

This combination of accepting her situation, but still seeking to do the very best she can, is the best-case scenario for Patrick. No one can accuse her of being overconfident, and her fans would be wise to accept this realistic look at the situation.

If they expect miracles to happen, they will be disappointed.

Logano returns to site of first win

Earlier this week, Joey Logano talked to the media about his return to the site of his first and only Cup win. While he hasn’t won in the past year, Logano is still turning heads, and making headlines as he continues his rise to the elite level of NASCAR drivers and works to make the Chase this season.
He said he is proud of how his teams’ performance has improved this year.

“I think as a driver I've changed a lot from that moment. I think as a person I don't think I've changed much at all. I'm still the same Joey that's been growing up my whole life. So nothing's changed there. But as a driver, I'm night and day different. And I feel like that's a good thing,” he said. “We've got a long ways to go to get to where I need to be, but definitely making big strides every day when we get on the racetrack. So that's a good thing. Gotta keep working hard and try to get better.”

And does that little spat with Kevin Harvick still weigh on his mind? Not a chance, Logano said.
“I put it all behind me,” he said. “I have not talked to him. But that's all in the past and we're looking ahead and trying to get this Home Depot car into The Chase. We're close. All that's in the past. I just look ahead.”

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