Time for Danica to show her stuff

The time has come for Danica Patrick to show her quality on the NASCAR track. (CHRIS KEANE/Reuters...

The time has come for Danica Patrick to show her quality on the NASCAR track. (CHRIS KEANE/Reuters file photo)

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:08 AM ET

TORONTO - The time has come for Danica Patrick to show her stuff -- and not in one of those revealing GoDaddy.com commercials.

Patrick moved to NASCAR stock car racing in 2010 just to get her feet wet while still competing full time in the IZOD Indy Car Series.

It was all rainbows and butterflies as she was given every opportunity to learn how to drive the big sedans in NASCAR's second tier Nationwide series mostly on oval race tracks with her fellow drivers bending over backwards to make her feel comfortable.

Her average start in 10 races that season -- 26.9. Her average finish -- 28th.

The next year she ran another part-time schedule in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet with 11 races.

Her average start in 2011 -- 18.2. And her average finish 17.4.

So Patrick was improving, ever so slightly, but enough to encourage those invested in her success to push for and get a 10-race deal this season in the much tougher Sprint Cup series while going full time in Nationwide.

After only three races her Cup statistics really can't be quantified, but 12 races into her Nationwide season, Patrick can be evaluated.

So far in 2012 she has improved her average starting position to 15.4, but has dropped her average finish to 21st.

This in equipment that is generally considered solid. A good comparison is with her JRM teammate Cole Whitt, who drives the No. 88 Chevrolet.

Whitt, in 12 races this season, has an average starting position of 14.8, not much better than Patrick.

But it is in finishing where the two get separated. Whitt's average finish of 13.7 is more than seven positions better that Patrick.

All of this makes Saturday's Nationwide race at Michigan International Speedway critical in Patrick's climb up the NASCAR ladder.

The two-mile track is in her wheelhouse. Patrick's best NASCAR performance in the past year was at another big track -- last July at Daytona International Speedway -- where she started seventh and finish 10th and where she won the pole in February.

So there are expectations that Patrick needs to take her Nationwide performances to the next level -- and that is into the winner's circle.

In fact Elliott Sadler, a NASCAR veteran who is leading the Nationwide championship this season said that he thinks Patrick can win on Saturday in the Alliance Truck Parts 250 at MIS.

"This track and the driving style you need here probably suits her pretty good," Sadler said. "She has shown at Daytona (last year) that she is really good in the draft.

"I definitely think that this is going to be a good race for her."

Patrick, however, said on Friday that meeting expectations is not something that is on the top of her to do lists.

In fact she said "never" when asked by The Toronto Sun when expectations should start meeting results.

"Because there are a million expectations," Patrick said. "It is not about what everyone thinks should happen every weekend. It is about how my team and I are working together and what we hope for and what our goals are.

"Expectations are just a point of conversation."

She said that what she is concentrating on is learning more and more about stock car racing every time she is in the race car.

And she said reaching her unstated goals will happen.

"Obviously we want to keep improving on the things we have done and we will," Patrick said. "And that is just going to take time."

Patrick said she must remind herself to be patient and try not to listen to the media voices that think she has to win sooner rather than later.

"I could go through all the things that I think that have gotten better over the year so far and there is quite a few of them," Patrick said without elaborating on just what those improvements were.

She said she does not spend much time looking back at her past performances

"So instead of getting upset about the individual weekend results, it is better to think about what you have improved on and the things that you need to improve on moving forward so that your results keep getting better," Patrick said.

FINISH LINES

Speeds continued to hit record highs Friday in final practice for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400. Greg Biffle topped the speed charts at a record smashing 204.708 m.p.h. more than 10 m.p.h. faster than Ryan Newman's previous record of 194.232 set back in 2005. ... In total 14 Sprint Cup drivers broke the 200 m.p.h. barrier in that final practice.

CARPENTIER RETURNS

So much for Patrick Carpentier's retirement plans.

The Joliette, Que., native announced after last season's NASCAR Nationwide NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal that he was through with big-time racing after a 20-year career.

But on Friday at Michigan International Speedway, a source close to the RAB Racing team told The Toronto Sun that Carpentier would be driving the No. 99 Toyota, with sponsorship from NAPA Auto Parts, in August in Montreal, even though there has been no official announcement of the deal.

"Patrick will drive the No. 99 NAPA Toyota again this season at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve," the source said.

Carpentier, when reached Friday, would only say that he is working on a deal but that nothing has been signed.

He was running in fourth place in last year's race when he was shunted off of the track by Steve Wallace.

His best finish in the Nationwide series was second in 2007 in Montreal after winning the pole.

Carpentier has five wins from his eight seasons in the CART/Champ Car/IndyCar open wheel series.

Former Montreal winner, Toronto's Ron Fellows, is expected to announced soon that he will be back in he No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at both Watkins Glen and Montreal as a teammate to Danica Patrick.

Fellows won the 2008 race, becoming the lone Canadian to win in the Nationwide series in its seven seasons at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

And former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve has also agreed to a contract to drive the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge at Montreal and next week at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.


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