With the exception of winning the pole and finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 and a 12th-place run at Martinsville, Danica Patrick's rookie season in Sprint Cup has been a trying one.
Patrick has only finished on the lead lap twice this year and more often has lagged at the back of the pack, whether it's in practice, qualifying or in the race itself.
But through the trials and tribulations, she has maintained her confidence that with time and some experience, better days were ahead. Her self-assurance may be waning, though, as she admitted Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that she isn't expecting a positive result in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.
A large part of Patrick's pessimism stems from her struggles in Saturday's All-Star Race, where after winning the fan vote to gain entry into the non-points event, she was a nonfactor throughout. The No. 10 car finished 20th out of the 20 cars that completed all 90 laps.
"I'm not going to lie; I didn't feel very good after we ended the All-Star Race last weekend," Patrick said. "I'm not necessarily optimistic right now about the race.
"But by no means do I let that take me out of the game, take my effort out. We were all fired up today. I think we had a relatively decent practice. We had lots of issues. Around that, I think we had better race speed. I think we're learning more about what I need in a qualifying car."
This is the second consecutive year Patrick will be racing at Charlotte and not Indianapolis. In 2005, en route to a fourth-place finish, she became the first woman to lead the Indy 500. It was that landmark performance which put her on the map.
"I have really fond memories," she said. "I, of course, would have loved to have won the race. I feel very fortunate as a driver to have been in a position to win a few times. Definitely two times having a really, really good chance. I feel good about that."
Since committing to run NASCAR full-time last season, Patrick hasn't turned a lap in an Indy car. Although she thought about running both Indy and Charlotte this year, she chose not to, thinking that doing the double would be an unnecessary distraction.
As she gets further removed from her previous life as an open-wheel racer, Patrick admits the odds of returning to Indy are becoming more remote.
"I really tried hard to do it this year," Patrick said. "We all did on my team. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that it wasn't going to help me here, and this is what I've chosen to do now. It's not fair to take away from it. I have a long way to go to figure this out. I need to focus here.
"As the years go by, more and more distance goes between my full-time IndyCar career and now, it gets less and less likely."