NASCAR: 5 Sprint Cup Tracks That Set Up Well for Danica Patrick in 2013

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NASCAR: 5 Sprint Cup Tracks That Set Up Well for Danica Patrick in 2013

It's still almost three months until the start of the season-opening Daytona 500, but one of the biggest storylines heading into 2013 will be Danica Patrick's first full season in the Sprint Cup series.

Patrick has served a lengthy apprenticeship, starting with 115 IndyCar races, 58 Nationwide Series races and 10 races already in the Sprint Cup circuit.

Her progress in the stock car world has been admittedly slow, but it's been a steady progression. After splitting 25 races over two seasons (2010 and 2011), Patrick ran a full season in the Nationwide Series in 2012, finishing a commendable 10th place in the final standings.

In addition, of her 33 starts this past season, while she didn't have any wins or top-five finishes, she did have four top 10s. While that's not earth-shattering, it is a sign of the progress she's making.

Perhaps even more impressive, in her last 11 starts on the NNS circuit, Patrick had three top 10s (including a ninth-place finish at Bristol), six top 15s, a 16th-place outing and a 29th-place finish. Put more simply, Patrick had 10 finishes between ninth and 16th in her last 11 starts.

Not half shabby at all.

Sure, she had a top-five at Las Vegas during her 12-race, part-time slate in 2011, but Patrick learned quite a bit in her full-time foray in the Nationwide Series in 2012.

While she probably would have benefited from one more full-time season in NNS, business opportunities (re: sponsorship by and other smaller associates) made it necessary for her to go full-time in the Sprint Cup series next season.

Patrick is not the only driver that has had to make a jump up to the Cup series perhaps a bit sooner than being fully ready due to sponsorship opportunities. Still, she'll make the best of her situation, hopefully increase her learning curve and develop into a credible competitor.

For her to finish in the top 25—maybe even the top 20—would likely be considered a success. Anything higher would just be gravy.

So, let's take a look at the 36-race Sprint Cup schedule and try to predict what five tracks (in no particular order) may play to Patrick's strengths the best—and may even result in some pleasant surprises for her in 2013.

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