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Danica Patrick Growing Comfortable with More Laps at IMS

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When Danica Patrick initially announced that she’d complete her career off by running the Indianapolis 500, expectations began to flood the airwaves in what she’d be able to accomplish. After all, it’d been awhile since she’d been behind the wheel of a IndyCar.

So far, things have gone solidly for the Ed Carpenter Racing competitor as she posted the 20th-quickest time during practice on Monday at the 2.5-mile rectangular oval. More importantly, she was able to begin to get a feel for being in traffic, whether in the back or middle of a group.

“I felt pretty good. I’m still not completely confident in traffic,” she said. “They’re trying to encourage me to use my tools and the bars, you know, the weight jacker and things. I’m like, I need to feel the traffic first. Like before we create another variable as to what’s going on, I need to familiarize myself and get sharp again with the traffic and just the tendencies of the car.

“So, yeah, it was a really — I mean, I felt like it was a really solid day. I feel like the car has a lot of good natural speed in it. It was very smooth. We tried a handful of things and found some stuff that worked.”

After beginning her career in open-wheel competition, completing seven full seasons with a best points-standings finish of fifth in 2009. She then began to dabble in NASCAR in 2010, before running the full NASCAR XFINITY Series campaign in 2012. Since then, she spent the last five seasons competing in the Cup Series, with a career-best sixth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2014. She completed her NASCAR career by running the Daytona 500 in February for Premium Motorsports.

While admitting that it’s tough to compare what the car feels like now compared to 13 years ago, she says her respect for the speedway and the speeds they’re running hasn’t changed.

“You can go out from one run to the next and not change anything and the car can be different. You just need to keep your wits about you,” she said. “I mean, for the very beginning of the month of May compared to my very first month of May, in general I’d say I’m humbled by the fact that the car has a lot of good, natural speed. It’s really just a matter of making a good racecar then. Of course, back in those days, at this point in time, we weren’t running in a pack at all, we were only working on speed. The whole first week was really just about getting ready for qualifying. Yeah, we’re not in that scenario now.”

Patrick has done well at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before, placing outside of the top-10 once in seven races with a career-best third in 2009. The team also knows how to do well, having sat on the pole previously with car owner Ed Carpenter behind the wheel.

Though if she was able to win the race, would that entice her to once again get behind the wheel after May 27?

“No, absolutely not. That would be the perfect way to never come back. Don’t you think? Yeah, don’t you think? Just mic drop that thing. That would be the perfect way to go out,” she said. “I have to say, I mean, if you talk to anybody in the last five years about, Am I going to do Indy? Personal, like family, I said I’d never do it again. No way. Like, I’m not going to — just not going to do it. It’s been too long since I’ve been in the car.

“The way that it all went down with being able to have time to prepare and be really focused, like, I watched Kurt (Busch) do the double. I really tried to do the double the second year I was gone. But I watched him do it, how much back and forth you have to do. I mean, look, you can do it, but that to me, based on the fact that I had done so well here so many times, had so much fun history here in my own memory, like, I didn’t want to come back just to do the double. I felt like I could within the first two years I was gone and still do a really good job. But after being gone for three, four, five, six, seven years, I was, like, I didn’t think I’d ever do it again.

“I have to say that only just because you never know. But, look, if I win, I really don’t think I would come back. It would be perfect. It would be perfect just like that.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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