During the long NASCAR season, breaks are a necessity for every driver. Danica Patrick is certainly one of those after an up-and-down start to the year.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has captured two top-10 results this season but also added yet another finish outside of the top 20 at New Hampshire prior to the break. It's time to start stepping it up now with just seven races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.
While the focus will clearly be on turning her season around this weekend, Patrick was able to spend time off the track with boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The couple enjoyed the ESPYs during the week off, as per NASCAR:
Now, the Sprint Cup couple heads to Indianapolis with the hope for more success. With Patrick and Stenhouse sitting at 27th and 28th, respectively, in the points standings, they will need a good showing at the Brickyard.
Here's a look at the latest news and standings for Patrick ahead of the pivotal race.
|2014 Sprint Cup Chase Grid|
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||658||2||9||13|
|Danica Patrick 2014 Results|
|Camping World RV Sales 301||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||29||22|
|Coke Zero 400||Daytona International Speedway||29||8|
|Quaker State 400||Kentucky Speedway||10||21|
|Toyota/Save Mart 350||Sonoma Raceway||11||18|
|Quicken Loans 400||Michigan International Speedway||27||17|
|Pocono 400||Pocono Raceway||16||37|
|FedEx 400||Dover International Speedway||28||23|
|Coca-Cola 600||Charlotte Motor Speedway||4||39|
|5-Hour Energy 400||Kansas Speedway||9||7|
|Aaron's 499||Talladega Superspeedway||7||22|
|Toyota Owners 400||Richmond International Raceway||35||34|
|Bojangles' Southern 500||Darlington Raceway||33||22|
|Duck Commander 500||Texas Motor Speedway||24||27|
|STP 500||Martinsville Speedway||10||32|
|Auto Club 400||Auto Club Speedway||27||14|
|Food City 500||Bristol Motor Speedway||36||18|
|Kobalt 400||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||22||21|
|The Profit on CNBC 500||Phoenix International Raceway||33||36|
|Daytona 500||Daytona International Speedway||27||40|
Following her second top-10 finish and the third of her young career, Patrick returned to earth at Loudon.
The 32-year-old climbed up a few spots from her starting position of 29th, but 22nd isn't helping her much in the rankings. Patrick spoke about her struggles at New Hampshire, as per USA Today:
We were just too tight late in the race. We were pretty much between 18th and 23rd all day and ended up 22nd. It's not the best day, but we've had lots worse, too. I'd like to thank the GoDaddy crew.
I think it will be nice to get the off week and get to Indianapolis in a couple of weeks and see what we've got.
The No. 10 car was once again able to avoid any major accidents, but simply couldn't find its way to the front. Patrick seemed relatively positive following a disappointing race, but the finishes outside of the top 20 are racking up.
While she still has a lot of room to grow in NASCAR, Brant James of ESPNW.com notes how she might be improving:
With two top-10s, Patrick is 27th in driver points -- one slot ahead of 2013 Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and two behind teammate Kurt Busch, who has a win this season. She has improved her average start from 30.1 to 21.6 this year and her average finish more modestly from 26.1 to 24.2, and is four off her 2013 total of eight lead-lap finishes.
The time is now to put the past behind her and continue that improvement. Not only did she fall a lap down at New Hampshire, but Patrick narrowly missed out on a top-20 finish after taking a gamble to get her that far up the leaderboard.
Moving forward, the SHR driver now has to get serious if she plans to make the Chase. That potential surge needs to start this weekend at the Brickyard, a track in which Patrick hasn't enjoyed great success during her NASCAR career.
Despite having an average finish of 8.7 during seven career starts, Patrick finished 30th last season in the Sprint Cup race. Here's a look at her career results, including a Nationwide start, at Indianapolis:
|Danica Patrick Indianapolis Results|
|Date||Start||Finish||Laps Led||Driver Rating||Status|
|July 28, 2013||33||30||0||48.5||Running|
|July 28, 2012*||20||35||0||61.9||Accident|
|DriverAverages.com (*Nationwide race)|
With poor results thus far and struggles at New Hampshire still fresh, despite the break, it's hard to see Patrick turning the season around at Indy. Though she finished third once in IndyCar at the track, she hasn't mastered the historic course in a stock car.
Hopes of a top-20 finish might come to fruition at the Brickyard, but it seems like a safe bet to say she won't quite crack the mark. The turnaround might have to start next weekend.
Predicted Finish: 26th
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