Danica ready for folks not to be surprised when she does well
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Oct 18, 2013 | 10755 views |  0 comments | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Danica Patrick unveils the No. 10 car sponsored by Aspen Dental, which she will drive next season in Las Vegas and Atlanta. (Photo by Mark Edwards/The Anniston Star)
Danica Patrick unveils the No. 10 car sponsored by Aspen Dental, which she will drive next season in Las Vegas and Atlanta. (Photo by Mark Edwards/The Anniston Star)
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TALLADEGA -- Danica Patrick has had some of her best races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup season on the restrictor-plate tracks, which makes her a darkhorse for a surprise finish at Talladega this week.

She finished eighth in the first Daytona race for her best placing of the year and 14th in her second run there this summer. At Talladega in May, she ran near the front before a wreck took her out of contention.

“I would say that one of my patterns is that they tend to be better races for me and that find a way to the front for a majority of the race,” Patrick, 31, said. “Hopefully, this will be another one of those and I know that Stewart-Haas builds great speedway cars. I know I feel very comfortable and confident on these tracks.”

But Patrick said she would love a day when nobody bats an eye when she runs somewhere near the top.

"What I'd like is for having good races to not be a surprise," Patrick said during a media appearance Friday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway.

At Talladega on Friday, she promoted a new sponsorship agreement with Aspen Dental, which will be the primary sponsor of her No. 10 car next season at Las Vegas and Atlanta. The car will be blue, rather than her typical green ride.

Heading into Sunday's Camping world RV Sales 500, Patrick's average finish this year has been 26.2. A former IndyCar driver, Patrick is running her first full-time season on NASCAR's Sprint Cup series this year.

She said the NASCAR restrictor-plate tracks at Talladega and Daytona run like the IndyCar surfaces on which she used to drive.

“As I have said before IndyCar racing on mile-and-a-halfs was much like this kind of racing,” Patrick said. “Flat out, close quarters and just trying to do whatever it took to keep the momentum up. I feel like visually it’s very familiar racing to me. Aerodynamics work different, but as far as the visual of how it goes and needing to keep the momentum up is very similar.”

As for her rookie season, she said she is neither disappointed nor surprised.

“I’m right where I need to be,” she said. “I’m right where I was going to be. All I know is that I’ve done everything I can to prepare for the year, to learn throughout the year and that is what’s going to lead into next year.”

Despite Patrick's lack of wins on the series, other drivers acknowledge she is one of the most popular figures in the sport. But does NASCAR need her to be successful?

"I think she needs it more than NASCAR needs it," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "She works at it and strides to be successful. Whether she is ... is on her. I think the sport wins or loses, either way."
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