No matter how you measure it, Danica Patrick's first full campaign as a NASCAR driver has been a struggle – both in the Nationwide Series, where she is running a full slate of races, and in the Sprint Cup Series, where she is running a handful of events.
Between the two national series, Patrick has contested 36 races in 2012 and has finished in the top 10 just twice. Her best result is an eighth-place run in the August Nationwide race at Bristol.
"Ultimately, I am disappointed with the results," Patrick said Friday at Kansas Speedway. "I wish they were better. I wish there were better things on the record books. I would imagine a lot of drivers can say that at the end of the year."
On the Cup side, the results have been particularly sub-par. In seven starts, the former IndyCar driver has finished no better than 25th and, perhaps more telling to how far off the pace she's been, has yet to finish a race within a single lap of the leaders.
While she ran decent at Darlington and Bristol, she admitted she "sucked" in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, where she expected to perform better.
"I get frustrated when think about how I'm doing out there in Cup sometimes in practice," said Patrick, who will run in both series this weekend. "But then I remember back to Nationwide and I remember it didn't go so great there either and you end up figuring out how to drive the car and get it to the limit and feel it out and be able to believe in that.
"I'm just not quite there. And so each time I get to a new track, it's always the same: I just need to build up my confidence."
What hasn't helped Patrick this year is that her Cup car owner, Tony Stewart, purposely stacked the schedule against her. Before the season, he intentionally picked what he thought where the most challenging tracks and said "we picked races that were going to be hard. They weren't supposed to be easy."
And as someone who himself has made the successful transition from IndyCar to NASCAR, Stewart's thinking was that this was the best way to prepare Patrick for the rigors of running at NASCAR's highest level.
"I believe she can do it, but it wasn't going to be easy," Stewart said. "There wasn't anything to learn by going to easy tracks this year on a partial schedule. The schedule she's going to have next year, she is going to have to go to these hard tracks and being able to have that experience of going the year before – even if it's a rough experience – you at least learn and get a base of that track."
And when next year rolls around, Stewart thinks Patrick will eventually thank him for making it so difficult on her.
"Anytime you do something for the first time, it's tough," he said. "The second time is always easier, I don't care what it is. And next year, she will see the benefits of that."