Danica Patrick looks for this weekend to be a sign of things to come

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Danica Patrick grabbed a hold on the climbing wall and launched. She moved one leg up to another hold and the next, moving at a steady pace until she reached the top.

She did it as part of a promotional event for sponsor Nature’s Bakery at the U.S. National Whitewater Center with contest winners who had chosen to scale the rock climbing wall with Patrick.

Her climb toward the front in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has not been as swift, but she feels that tonight’s Sprint Showdown could be a sign of things to come. At least she hopes.

Patrick is in the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Three drivers will race their way into Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race by winning any of the three segments. The final two drivers in the 20-car Sprint All-Star Race will be selected by a fan vote.

Patrick has competed in the Sprint All-Star Race twice, earning entry via the fan vote. She finished 20th in both races. She enters this weekend coming off a season-best 13th-place finish at Dover.

“I hope we can race our way in,’’ Patrick said. “That’s for sure what every driver wants to do if they’re not in the (all-star race). It’s the most honorable way to get in, but it’s not as though there is not honor in getting through the fan vote because it just means you’re resonating with the fans and they’re showing that they like you and appreciate you and want to see you race.

“I hope that we’re good because, to be honest, if we race our way in, that means really good things moving forward in the season, too. It’s not going to be easy to qualify our way in because there are lots of great drivers that aren’t necessarily already in the race. So, I think that probably overall more than anything racing my way in will mean that I think we’re going to be a lot better moving forward in the season.’’

Among those entered in the Sprint Showdown looking to advance to the Sprint All-Star Race are Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.