Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Lagging Danica tries to stay positive

CONCORD, N.C. — Danica Patrick refuses to get down on herself even though her first full season on the Sprint Cup series has been a struggle.

She is 28th in the point standings after 11 races and has just one top-10 finish, which came in the season-opening Daytona 500.

"It's about keeping your head up and not getting discouraged to the point where it takes away from potential," Patrick said Wednesday. "When you're in a bad mood and you're defeated, I don't think that's going to get you the results you want."

Unlike a year ago, Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team have struggled this season on 1½-mile tracks. That leaves her concerned about Sunday's racing marathon, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

She knows the 600-mile race means she could fall a few laps down if there aren't a lot of cautions.

"Yeah, it definitely makes you a little worried that if things don't go well they're going to be really bad because you have an extra 100 to 200 miles on the race track," Patrick said.

Then she flashed a positive smile and said, "But then again, it also gives us a chance of turning things around."

Aside from her eighth-place finish at Daytona, Patrick has only one top-15: 12th place at Martinsville. She has been no better than 25th in the other nine races.

Patrick, 31, said the focus has been on finding a good baseline setup for her car, something that has caused the No. 10 Chevy problems this year.

"We went testing a few weeks ago and started a process that we hope will work for us over the next couple of weeks," Patrick said. "If it doesn't work, we'll start over and find a new one."

She hasn't set any goals for her first full season on the Cup series other than to improve every week. Patrick said she's enjoying racing stock cars and the more she's away from open-wheel racing, the less likely she's going back.

"I'm definitely comfortable now" in stock cars, Patrick said. "It probably took until last year when it was full time. I would get in a car for the first time in six weeks and it was like you have one hour to practice before you go qualify and race. That's tough."

Patrick ran on the Nationwide series full time last year and participated in 10 Cup races.

She said she's committed to NASCAR, though she knows there are likely more bumps ahead.

"It's about settling in and figuring things out and finding the areas I need to work on," Patrick said. "But part of this season is having good races and having bad races. It's the first full year."

NASCAR Hall class: Former Cup champion Dale Jarrett and master mechanic Maurice Petty headline the group of five inductees slated to enter the Hall of Fame in January. Dale Jarrett will join his father, Ned, while Maurice becomes the fourth member of the storied Petty family (older brother Richard, father Lee and cousin Dale Inman) to get in. Also going in: Tim Flock, Jack Ingram and "Fireball" Roberts. "I've always felt like it was an honor and a privilege to drive for NASCAR, and this sport has been such a huge part of the Jarrett life," Dale said. "Now to be part of something that my father is a part of, it just means the world to me."

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