SPARTA, Ky. – With her three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates having won this season, it would be natural for Danica Patrick, whose average finish is 23.4 in 2016, to feel performance pressure.
But the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet, who has one top 15 (a 13th at Dover International Speedway), is choosing to look at the positives.
“It’s only really an upside,” she said Thursday at a sponsor event near Kentucky Speedway. “There’s potential sitting there. We’ve got to figure it out. You just never know when that day could come. I feel like you just have to be ready.”
There have been few highlights for Patrick in her first season with new crew chief Billy Scott. She is ranked 26th in the points standings and has slipped in qualifying with an average starting spot of 25.6 (more than three positions lower than each of the past two seasons).
She will enter Saturday’s Quaker State 400 with four finishes outside the top 20 in the past five races.
“I don’t feel confident enough in how it’s gone that we’ve been so fast that I feel like a win is around the corner,” she said. “But you just never know what can happen, and there are all kinds of things that can happen in a race. Someday you might show up like it’s happened to me over the last couple of years where you’re just good, and that might be the day, so you have to be ready, and you have to be focused.
“But until it becomes more of an expectation, it’s about working on all the details and improving every aspect, so it is a more normal objective of ours instead of top 15.”
The most memorable example of the switch suddenly flipping on for Patrick was the May 10, 2014 race at Kansas Speedway, where she qualified ninth and finished seventh – her first top 10 in 45 Sprint Cup races.
That was the fourth race on a 1.5-mile oval that recently had been repaved. Kentucky’s recent resurfacing offers some hope of being an equalizer Saturday night.
Patrick recalls a restart at Kansas in which she passed Kasey Kahne for third despite being on the nonpreferred top line as a good example of capitalizing with a strong car.
“(Kansas) is what I mean by you have to be ready, and certain races like Martinsville and some other places have been really good races, and those are the days that you have to mentally put yourself there so you’re not surprised when it happens,” she said. “What’s funny is usually when it’s going really well, and I feel fast, I have even more confidence. That’s not a crazy thought, but I feel very comfortable. I don’t feel out of place.
“That’s the kind of confidence I feel when the car is right, so it’s a matter of finding a way to get there more consistently.”