Danica Patrick still has plenty to learn about racing in NASCAR, and that's a bit disconcerting to some people. But here's the thing about her lack of experience: She knows it, her team knows it, and they're all cool with it.
So should we be cool with it, too?
Patrick said Friday's Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway "was like one of those good learning days." There were both highlights and lowlights, but she finished all the laps but one and ran a mostly respectable race with the exception of a couple notable hiccups.
We'll get to those in a minute. But first, the positives.
Patrick is not shy about her lack of NASCAR experience and doesn't consider it to be a bad thing. She views her races this season as purely a learning experience for 2012, when she'll come to NASCAR on a full-time basis.
Despite the massive hype surrounding her, she is under no illusions that she is a good stock car driver just yet. But she believes seat time and laps will cure that problem.
And seat time was exactly what she got at Richmond. She finished 18th on Friday night – the first car one lap down – which is not bad for a short track newbie, in all honesty.
Among Friday's lessons? Patrick said she learned about adjusting the brake bias to help her handling and got more experience restarting in both the inside and outside lanes.
"I said (before the race) if I'd have been in the top 15, it was a really good day – and I wasn't that far off," she said. "At the end of the day, this is a learning experience – this year and last year – in preparation for next year."
On the negative side, two other lessons were not as pleasant.
While racing Brad Keselowski for the free pass just past the midway point of the 250-lap event, Patrick got into a corner too hot and locked the tires up. She slid up the track into Keselowski and sent him spinning.
It was a total "My bad" moment. She immediately said via the team radio that it was a mistake, but she also asked crew chief Tony Eury Jr. what the "etiquette" was for smoothing over any ill feelings with Keselowski.
"Call him tomorrow," Eury Jr. advised.
If the Keselowski was "the bad," one other mistake was "the ugly."
During the first caution of the night, two cars in front of Patrick bizarrely took off in apparent anticipation of the wave-around. Patrick, not knowing any better, sped up and followed the cars – right past the bright pink pace car.
Spotter T.J. Majors quickly told her to stop, but she was confused about what just happened.
"I didn't even see the pace car!" she said after the race. "The pace car must have been pretty low or going kind of slow or something. I remember accelerating down the front straight and thinking, 'Wow, we're really moving!' and I didn't even see the pace car."
Patrick called that particular learning experience "a lesson in monkey see, monkey do."
When told she would kick herself when she saw the TV replay from her roof cam, she took the news well.
"Yeah? It probably was extremely obvious," she said. "And I probably looked like...what's that animal that follows?"
"A lemming," she confirmed. "I probably looked like a lemming out there. Oh well."
Patrick's lack of experience may still be jarring to some of us, but we can at least say this: She's not afraid to make very public mistakes and turn them into learning experiences to help her future.