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NASCAR racing, Day One, for Danica Patrick at Daytona: a little rain, but uneventful

  A woman on a mission: Danica Patrick at Daytona. And she's got the right gear. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern
   Indy-car star Danica Patrick finally ran some officials laps in a stock car Friday, in an ARCA Chevy at Daytona, hitting 176.142 mph, during a brief, rain-shortened test session for the February 6th 200. She only made four laps during the 35-minute session.
    Patrick, though more than a second slower than faster Mikey Kile (180.708 mph), said speed and handling wasn't as much an issue for her as just getting used to the technical aspects of stock cars and the NASCAR way of driving in and out of the garage.
  "It's still a car once you get in it," she said.
   "I feel most comfortable once I'm at speed. The car moves around quite a bit. The car was definitely
getting some action in the rear over the bumps. It was getting a little bit
loose but I kept my foot in it and tried not chasing it too much with the

    "Everything -- from getting into the car, to getting the car started -- that part feels quite different to me. It's not normal to me.
    "The car (in the Indy Racing League) gets pulled out to pit lane...(though) getting strapped in is something I've been familiar with for a long time now.
    "So everything is a little bit different.
    "But once I get out there I feel good. I feel comfortable.
    "These cars can run more lanes on the track. You're all the way to the wall, and the car is good to go there. It's easier to drive there.
    "In an Indy-car you can't use quite as many lanes usually.
    "The (NASCAR) gear shifter has more travel; you have to pull something, and no more paddle anymore.
     "The clutch is long.
      "It's just different stuff.
       "But I wouldn't say that there is any instinctive stuff that is different... which is the best part, right?
      "Because I just get to be a driver and I get to do what I'm used to, I feel comfortable once I get going."

She only made four laps

She only made four laps during the 35-minute session.
Four 2.5 mile laps in 35 minutes. By my math, that's only 17.1 mph. I don't think that will be fast enough to qualify. ;)

Mike I listened to the whole

Mike I listened to the whole session on the scanner and she did better than I expected. ARCA practice with mostly mid pack drivers really doesn't tell you much. Decklid is clueless, Danica ran 19 laps in single car runs then 40 laps in the first drafting session in the primary car and 10 more in the 2nd session in the backup.
T.J. Majors did a great job from the spotters stand and Danica was a good student. She may be a diva in a swimsuit but she is a racer in a firesuit and has no problem with her 'Rookie" status. Very early on she commented about "new muscles" and she may have to step up her workout program from yoga to pushing some steel and I believe she's committed enough to do just that.
Danica is also beginning to grasp the lingo of stock cars as evidenced by her willingness to drop a couple F Bombs with one directed at a driver for slowing with no warning deeming him a "efffing idiot".
What Danica and JRM need to do is take a few cars and drivers to as many tests as possible, let her run with other cars to accelerate her learning. Running laps isn't going to be enough if she wants to get up to speed fast.
The other thing is the "Fishbowl Factor". Her boss Dale Jr. has struggled lately and some of that could be due to the expectations on his shoulders and it will be no different for her.
I wish her the best but I'm still not sold yet.

i agree: she's doing better

i agree: she's doing better than i expected (maybe tony sr, working again with tony jr., is the real story here), and ARCA doesnt say much about Nationwide/Cup/Truck of course...unless you can start up front, run up front, have decent pit stops, and not screw up. I'm thinking my sense that she will win the 200 from the pole may stand up.....unless milka or alli decides to take it from her....
new muscles, yes....but she should have learned that back in october, after the irl season ended -- she's three months behind already in getting the right muscles for the job -- talk to mark martin certainly....

but just how much is she committed? she still has to show me.
spotting will be crucial, natch. she should have been running a few nascar races last fall.
yes, the fishbowl -- i'm not sure rick hendrick is doing the right thing by putting something like this on dale jr.'s plate...he's got enough distractions as it is....maybe Mr. H. is setting up Junior to move to JR Motorsports himself eventually....like the Tony Stewart thing....

I'm the first to admit that I

I'm the first to admit that I have a lot to learn. I've never driven or worked on a race car. I have no idea what it takes to compete week after week or to win even once in a while. Aside from oil changes and brake jobs, I have no automotive technical knowledge (although I once rewired an old Jeep). I'm just a race fan. I have great appreciation of the sacrifices and risks that racers take to entertain crowds of guys like me. That's why I spend so much time on this site. Through the insight of Mulhern and his readers, I'm learning a lot.
I can't contribute much to the racing community other than the opinion of one dedicated race fan and some (hopefully) witty quips from time to time. I appreciate the insight you offered in your post. It will be interesting to watch Patrick race. I think she brings more money and marketing than driving talent to NASCAR. Soon I'll learn whether I'm right or wrong.

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