After a long stay in Daytona, Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Danica Patrick was happy to get home to her own bed. She spent the few days between the races relaxing and getting a pedicure while her competitors were busy worrying about getting from Charlotte to the west coast.
But at her home track in Avondale, Patrick has always struggled. She admits it herself, saying she needs to work on her short track program.
In her three appearances in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Phoenix International Raceway, she has finished 32nd and seven laps down (Fall 2010), 21st and four laps down (Fall 2011) and 17th and three laps down (Spring 2011). The repaving of the track didn’t help her lack of success.
On Saturday, Patrick qualified 30th, turning a time of 28.347 seconds at 126.998 mph. To compare, pole-sitter Denny Hamlin ran a lap of 27.072 seconds at 132.979 mph.
In the 200 lap race, she was already one lap down by lap 40. Frustrated, she finished 21st, three laps down. Patrick refused to speak with the media after the race.
Tony Stewart, who is her Cup car owner, says watching Patrick in her Nationwide races will help on her Cup side..
“I always watch the Nationwide races. I watch them because we learn from it for our races too,” he said. “We will watch what she is doing obviously because we have interest in trying to help her be better in the Cup car too.”
Earlier in the day during her media availability, Patrick was asked what she learned at Daytona. Her answer?
“How to crash.”
Although it brought chuckles and she was in good spirits, she said every incident is a learning experience for her. Stewart added to that sentiment.
“Everything is sensory overload for her because she is doing stuff that is totally different than what she is used to. Every week is going to be a learning experience right now.”
The race saw one caution for Kenny Wallace, whose story of possible forced retirement was the talk of the garage. Wallace made headlines by not making the Daytona 500 last week, and this week it was the story of his lack of sponsorship on his Nationwide car that may force him into retirement earlier than planned that had everyone talking.
Wallace will run the next three races since he’s guaranteed a spot based on owner points, but is un-sponsored. For the rest of the season his team, Robby Benton Racing, only has four races sponsored for him but has been approached by other drivers with funding.
Wallace had planned to possibly retire after the 2012 season.
Elliott Sadler took the checkered flag, his first Nationwide series victory since October 31, 1998 at Rockingham. Sadler’s win was popular across the boards since he hasn’t seen victory lane in any NASCAR series in 91 starts. This also marks the first time since 1995 that Cup drivers have been shut out of the first two Nationwide (then Busch) series races when Chad Little won the first two races.
Rounding out the top 10 were Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Sam Hornish Jr., Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Michael Annett.
The series heads to Las Vegas next week for the Sam’s Town 300. Patrick had her best finish there last year, finishing fourth.
Farrah Kaye is a NASCAR columnist for CBS Local Sports and is a member of the NMPA. Her previous articles have appeared on SPEEDtv.com, newsweek.com and she holds a degree in Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @Farrah_Kaye.