The NASCAR Nationwide series is gearing up for its 23rd race of the season, when it visits the scenic Irish Hills where race fans from the surrounding country will converge on the two-mile, D- shaped oval known as Michigan International Speedway.
Michigan Speedway, with its 18-degree banking, will also play host to NASCAR’s newest invention, the Nationwide series Car of Tomorrow.
The C.O.T., which made its debut at Daytona in July, will also be run at Richmond in September, and Charlotte in October in preparation to be run full-time for the 2011 season.
JR Motorsports driver Danica Patrick, who has been absent from the series for the last five weeks, will once again test her NASCAR racing skills, but this weekend it will be behind the wheel of the No. 7 GoDaddy.com sponsored Chevrolet C.O.T.
Patrick, who last visited Michigan Speedway back in 2007, led five laps while taking her Andretti Green open wheel racing machine to a seventh-place finish.
Unlike the full-schedule she is running in the IZOD Indy Car Series, Patrick has already missed 17 races in the NASCAR series with lengthy breaks between the five races she has participated in.
Without that much needed track time, her results have exposed just how important it is for her to decide which direction she wants her racing career to continue on.
So far in her five starts, she has yet to finish on the lead lap, she has a best finish of 24th, and is not yet considered a middle of the pack runner since her average finish is only a 31.2.
“With limited track time, you just can’t keep up with the greats in the sport,” said Patrick, who drives for Andretti Autosport in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Patrick also added that, “The hardest thing to learn in NASCAR is the line around the track. It keeps changing, high, then low, and most tracks I've never run."
Not only is she having trouble being competitive in the NNS, but her Indy car season is also beginning to show signs of failure.
This season she has only led one lap to go along with one top-five and five top-10 finishes in 17 races run between the two series combined.
During the 2009 season, Patrick had five top-five, and 10 top-10 finishes with 26 laps led while finishing fifth in the IZOD IndyCar series, which was her best season ever.
With numbers such as those, even though her Indy car stats are useless in the NASCAR series, you have to wonder how much of a factor she will be once the green flag drops for the Carfax 250 on Saturday at 1 P.M. ET.
"I'm looking forward to Michigan right now," said Patrick. "I think we can settle in and do very well there."
Patrick will need to run more than the additional seven races she has committed to this season, and without the seat time all she is doing is hurting her chances at being a competitor since her next start will be another six weeks away at Dover International Speedway on September 25.
Given the fact Patrick has already committed to running another full-time schedule in 2011 with Andretti Autosport, nothing has been said about her Nationwide schedule next season.
It begs one to ask the question, “Is she just dabbling in NASCAR to keep herself marketable in both series?”
Her fans have other ideas with most of them thinking she will be in a cup car by the end of 2012. Nevertheless, all you have to do is look at her progress, and it’s easy to see that she is nowhere near that goal.
Without a full-time commitment in NASCAR, the best outlook would be to put her with one of the start and park teams this way she could still race in the IndyCar series, and at the same time keep herself marketable since that seems to be her only goal.
As far as how she will do this weekend, Brian Keselowsi summed it up the best. "You just can't expect her to win at this stage," said Keselowski.
Keselowski also added that, "She just needs to be in the race car more and more. Is she going to win at Michigan? I'd say 99 percent no. With the new Nationwide car, it's going to be even harder for her.”