It's no secret that Danica Patrick has struggled mightily in her rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, where she sits 27th in points. Saturday morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Patrick said she's figured out one thing she needs to go faster: better race cars from her Stewart-Haas Racing team.
"At the end of the day the natural speed that is in the car does need to continue to get better," Patrick said prior to practice for tomorrow's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead. "I think this weekend was a show of that and so far for us I don't think that's a mystery."
Patrick made no bones about the fact that she needs to improve, too, if the No. 10 SHR team is to start posting better results next year.
"I think that there is a tremendous amount that I still need to learn for sure and a lot of stuff that I need to work on for making the weekends more smooth on things like anticipating how big of changes need to happen from practice to qualifying and qualifying to the race," said Patrick, who has just one top-10 and four top-20 finishes in the first 35 races of the season.
"And the things I need out of practice that result in a good race car those are all things that I need to learn," she said. "I need to be able to identify what is happening with the car better every time I'm in it so that I can help more."
Patrick was encouraged by her performance Friday at Homesetead, where she was 20th in practice and qualified 24th. In the first of two Saturday practices, Patrick was 25th.
"From a car and set-up aspect and there just is a lot more natural speed in what we have had out there this weekend," said Patrick. "It feels like I feel potential to actually -- you know the car doesn't feel right yet, we are okay. It seems like sometimes throughout the year the car has felt pretty good and it's not fast."
Patrick said that the faster car has benefitted her this weekend.
"We just need to do everything we can to be more prepared every single weekend," said Patrick. "...That is what is tough about the Cup is that you can't be a little off. The difference between a good and a bad weekend is so much bigger than in the Nationwide Series or anywhere else. The competition, the level of effort is so high. You have to always be on your game."