Nobody likes it when a race weekend has rain that cancels practice or qualifying. That can be especially said for rookie drivers needing as much track time as possible. That scenario played out in June for Danica Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team. Getting back to the track within a month is a benefit for a rookie trying to learn the ropes still.
“It’s a neat place, definitely a unique track. It was helpful to test there before the last race, especially since Friday practice was rained out during the race weekend. It’s good to go to these places a second and third time. It’s just part of the learning process. I feel more comfortable going there this time than last time and I’m sure I’ll feel even more comfortable next year. Going to these tracks a second and third time helps,” explained Patrick.
It’s hard to gauge how a driver’s season is going by looking at each week’s results. You have to look at the whole picture and then look at each race. Look to see if they’re gaining each week and running more consistent. Maybe things are happening that is preventing the results from happening like they’d want. Patrick and her team are doing just that, looking at the broad picture instead of each little blip on the radar.
“I think it is important to look at how it is going overall with the team. I think we’ve had some struggles this year and we are trying to come to grips with the new car. I wish I was better off than I am right now, but we are getting better. It’s just that everyone gets better throughout the weekend. I asked Tony (Gibson, crew chief) after Loudon how I was doing, and what does he really expect out of me. To some degree, that’s the real question – what are the expectations of me? Do you think I am supposed to be top-20 and top-15 all the time? Or am I not? He said, ‘If I saw there being an issue, or something that stood out as a problem, or an area you needed to work on, I would have come to you already, but I don’t see it. And every time I am behind you, you are doing the right thing’. He said we have to work on the cars and make them better, and he thinks I am doing a good job,” explained Patrick.
Practice time and moving your finishing position upward are the goals for the remainder of the year. And Patrick knows the deck is stacked against her running in NASCAR’s top series.
“You are competing against a lot of experience and good relationships team-wise, driver- and crew chief-wise, and familiarity. It’s just tough. I think hoping for top-10s and wins all the time is fairly unrealistic. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Daytona was a top-10 to start the year off, but I think it’s far more realistic to hope for top-15s and top-20s, right now. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s about baby steps and it’s about making realistic goals you can achieve. Otherwise, it’s just constantly frustrating because, if you had set a goal of top-20 and you finish there, then you have something to be happy about where, if you don’t set that goal at all and you’re 20th, then you are like, ‘I suck, I’m 20th.’ You have to set goals along the way and it’s a process. That is why experience pays off. For the most part in your whole career, you don’t stop learning and you continue to get better. It’s just a little bit more so at the beginning,” said Patrick.
Patrick and her team will look to get moving on up through the field starting at 1 PM EST as the Sprint Cup Series tackles “The Tricky Triangle.” The race can be seen on ESPN this weekend.