NASCAR

How serious is Danica? Ask Indy

Danica dicusses why she's skipping the Indy 500.
Danica dicusses why she's skipping the Indy 500.
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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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CONCORD, NC

Danica Patrick is putting her dream of winning the Borg-Warner Trophy on hold this year.

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On Monday, Patrick, 29, confirmed that she’ll compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and forgo an eighth-straight start in the Indianapolis 500. The two races are scheduled for May 27.

“I hope to do it in the future, the Indy 500, that is,” Patrick said while speaking at the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Maybe it’ll be a double, but at this point in time, after a lot of conversations, it’s just going to be the Coke 600.

“I think it’s going to be a big challenge, but I’m looking forward to it — especially a hometown like Charlotte for NASCAR.

“Again, I’m hopeful to do it in the future, but for this year it just didn’t happen.”

For Patrick, the timing, commitment and logistics were “just something that didn’t work out.”

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Patrick’s main focus in 2012 will be to compete for the Nationwide Series title behind the wheel of the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. She’s already balancing the NNS schedule with the 10 Sprint Cup races in the No, 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet with Stewart-Haas Racing. Patrick added the Coca-Cola 600 as Race 9 in that allotment and intimated that running the Brickyard 400, NASCAR's annual race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as Race 10 “sounds like a great idea.”

Over the last two seasons while running IndyCar full-time, Patrick ran just a total of 25 events in the Nationwide Series. But considering that Patrick has top-of-the-line equipment from JR Motorsports, does she believe she can win the Nationwide title?

“Deep in my heart I hope so, but I’m not really sure,” Patrick said. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out with which drivers are on the track each weekend — which Cup drivers. There are tracks I still haven’t been to.

“One thing I try to do as a driver, I’m pretty consistent. I tend to finish races. I had a good history of that in IndyCar. It tends to be a little bit harder in NASCAR because you can be part of something you didn’t mean to be and get bumped around. But I’m not going to let that happen — at least the bumping part. They’ll get it back anyway.”

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One person who believes she can survive is her new Sprint Cup crew chief, Greg Zipadelli. And the veteran has had his share of rookies in the past with Tony Stewart in 1999 and Joey Logano in 2009.

During the Daytona test earlier this month, Zipadelli saw a lot of promise in his newest driver and knows there’s more to come.

“She’s very focused,” he said. “She’s very attentive to everything you say. She’s very positive and eager to learn, receptive to what anybody said. She took criticism very positive — like when someone said, ‘think about this’ — she took it and tried to process, learn, make it better and give me better feedback.

“Getting on pit road, her awareness of things and after her and Tony worked together in drafting, coming in and talking, I was very surprised at how attentive she was to everything around her, how relaxed she was, how much positive input she had and how much confidence she had in herself.”

“The Daytona test was a good icebreaker to have all the guys work together, learn each other a little bit and feel comfortable communicating. We’ll learn more through the week of Daytona. We’re going to do some short track testing, we’ll probably go to Nashville before Darlington to make her run laps, make her run a full fuel stint, do a lot of those things just to see how she does and reacts.”

Patrick believes a realistic goal in the Nationwide Series would be to finish in the top five in the point standings. She also knows the pressure will be high during Speedweeks as she begins balancing her Nationwide duties alongside her Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500.

“The expectations I set for myself are usually higher than what anybody else could want and I know what’s realistic,” Patrick said. “The people around me know what’s realistic. There’s a lot of peace of mind for me to that I’ve done everything possible to perform well. And if I do, great. I’ve done what I’ve came to do and I’m relieved for it.

“But if I don’t do well, I know that’s all I had today. You can’t do more than you’re able to do. At the end of the day, I’m just going to resent being me then and that won’t be good.”

Tagged: Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart

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