Posted: 6:32 p.m. Friday, May 10, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
On a track with a reputation for chewing up cars, Danica Patrick's weekend got off to an ominous start when in Friday's first practice session she got loose and pancaked the Turn 2 wall.
The damage was severe enough that she will have to start Saturday's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in a backup car.
"I was just trying to get what I could from the tires," Patrick said. "... You know what, it's just a learning process, it's good to know and it reminds me that if I'm trying to achieve the balance out there on the track that I just have to discipline myself to take care of Turn 2."
As her team prepared her backup Chevrolet, Patrick missed the remainder of opening practice and nearly 25 minutes of practice No. 2.
But in Patrick's eyes the mishap did have one positive, as it forced the No. 10 team to concentrate its efforts on finding a setup for Saturday's race.
"I think it might pay off to have done those practice runs instead of qualifying runs in the second session," she said. "I don't think it's going to be a huge loss, but hopefully it doesn't make for too big of a disaster in qualifying."
Even though she is a Sprint Cup Series rookie, this is not Patrick's first tango with the track known as "The Lady in Black."
Last year in preparation for her rookie campaign, team owner Tony Stewart had Patrick run a limited schedule consisting of tracks that would challenge her. One of those tracks was the 1.3-mile speedway, which is shaped like an egg and where drivers frequently hit the wall and earn themselves a "Darlington Stripe."
While she lacked competitiveness, Patrick did make it to the checkered flag -- alas six laps behind the leaders in 31st.
"I mean we are far better off unloading and hitting the track for the first time now versus last year," Patrick said. "Last year we were last and really felt very uncomfortable out there.
"This time I felt much more comfortable. To the point that I was hanging it out a little bit more. Exploring the limits of the car and I explored too far."
Because she went to a backup car prior to qualifying, Patrick will not have to forfeit her starting position and lineup at the back of the grid.