NASCAR Fontana 2013: Danica Patrick not discouraged by slow start

Justin Edmonds

In the three weeks since her history making effort in the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick has seen a noticeable dip in her performance.

To say Danica Patrick has struggled since finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 would be an understatement.

Since becoming the first woman to start on the pole, lead a lap and finish in the top 10 in the Great American Race, Patrick has finished 39th, 33rd and 28th in subsequent weeks and has finished no less than five laps behind the leaders.

But despite her lack of competitiveness, Patrick understands that this is part of the learning curve associated with being a NASCAR rookie.

"I know that I have a lot to learn and I know that as a group we have a lot to learn together to figure out where the car is best for me so we can be closer more of the weekend," Patrick said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. "But we will get it. I'm not discouraged or afraid at this point for anything.

"This is just the process that we go through. We will be fine."

But Patrick isn't the only driver at Stewart-Haas Racing to have issues through the first month of the season, as both Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman have been off the pace as well. The three drivers have combined for just four top tens with Newman the highest of the three in points, sitting 23rd overall.

However, each driver is dealing with a separate, unrelated predicament.

For Patrick, the glaring problem has been the noticeable lack of speed she's had from the onset of each weekend. Instead of improving her time with each round of practice, the No. 10 Chevrolet has gotten slower, which puts her further behind the eight ball come race day.

This is evidenced by the fact that outside of Daytona, Patrick's best start was 37th at Las Vegas.

"I feel like we are working on a pretty small window of grip where it's easy to push it over one way or the other," Patrick said. "We just need to have a bigger platform to work around so that we can be decent more of the time instead of only when we hit it perfectly.

"To me grip is always the answer. If we can just widen that platform we will be better off much more of the time."

Patrick remains optimistic, however, believing that she inevitably will become more competitive as she figures out the nuances of racing in NASCAR's top series and better understands the tracks.

"You never like to have down weekends, but they are definitely going to happen," Patrick said. "We will work through our weekend and figure out how to get better for the next one that is all you can do."

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