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Danica Patrick says she missed being “relevant” in IndyCar because her name was not mooted as a race winner after she moved into the NASCAR Cup series.
The one-time IndyCar race winner will end her career after the 2018 Indianapolis 500 as part of a planned swansong that took in the NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500 and IndyCar’s flagship race.
Those two races were chosen due to Patrick’s career highlights, leading laps and taking a top-three finish at the Indy 500 in 2009 and grabbing pole at Daytona four years later.
Patrick’s NASCAR career proved to be difficult, with her best result being sixth at Atlanta in 2014, and her final season was blighted with sponsorship issues that led to her walking away from the series at the end of ’17.
After her high-profile transition from single-seaters to stock cars, Patrick missed both the Indy 500 and her relevance in the category.
“I remember watching the Indy 500 the first year I wasn’t in it and I missed it,” she said. “I remember that feeling.
“And as time wore on I missed that relevancy of being in the game and being someone [who] before the race [they asked of] – ‘who do you think is going to win today?’
“My name did not pop up in NASCAR. Then that first Daytona 500 when I was on the pole, other than that most of the races weren’t like that.
“I missed being relevant, so I’m going to try to be that here this month [at Indianapolis]. It’s going to be hard because everybody is really good and I wasn’t for a while.
“The car seems like it has some good, natural speed and we’re not really pressing the issues too much [in early testing].
“So, build confidence and not break it today [in manufacturer testing] and come back in a couple weeks and see where we go.”
Patrick added that her Ed Carpenter Racing deal for the Indy 500 feels better prepared than her late Daytona tie-up with Premium Motorsports, which ended in a quarter-distance pile-up during the race.
Patrick drove for ECR for the first time in yesterday’s veteran refresher test.
“I would say from a preparation standpoint, on the car side with Ed [Carpenter] and the whole team, I feel more prepared on that side of things,” she said.
“This is a well thought-out, timed, planned, full-fledged effort. Daytona came pretty quick and the team did a great job massaging the car, and I felt we were competitive in the race.
“We weren’t the fastest car but we were competitive. I feel it was still a good effort, but this is one that had more time to go through the details and be prepared.”