Danica Patrick seemed headed for another top-five finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday until she was burned on a late restart and forced to settle for 12th.
Patrick was in the sixth position after what proved to be the final caution of the day, but the combination of a tight car and her struggles on restarts cost precious track position and a shot at a top-10.
"I don't think the result shows for how I felt in the car and how consistent I felt the car was," she said. "... I need to work on my restarts, I know that. I just lost a bunch of spots there."
After finishing fourth in last year's Vegas race – the highest finish for a female in NASCAR history – Patrick had high hopes entering Saturday's event. But she fell back at the start after qualifying 12th, thanks to a loose car, and took much of the race to get back toward the front.
When the team got the car more to her liking, she drove up into the top 10 and was making passes to get in position for a top-five finish. But then the last restart came, and Patrick just couldn't hold her spot.
"I was thinking, 'I'm really pissed that I'm falling back, because I was in sixth and now I'm not,'" she said. "In those moments, I get a little more angry and a little more fired up. These are not the kind of cars you can just drive harder and go faster. ... You can't just charge in the corner, because you're going to push or get loose. It's about perfecting the way you come out of the throttle."
The lack of a left-side mirror (it came loose and folded in during the race) also caused her problems, she said, as did her depth perception on pit stops.
"In IndyCar (pit stops), the guys are set out, so that poor guy on the right front is down on his knees like this," she said, dropping to her knees to demonstrate, "and there are cars coming in around him with their wheels exposed. But you could see them, and at least you were driving around a stationary object.
"But when you're pitting with (another car) who is coming in at the same time as you, those guys are coming over the wall, and it's difficult for me to know exactly how much I can cut into that box behind me. I felt like I almost hit somebody on the first stop."
Patrick, who said Friday she's worried about letting her fans down with disappointing results and overly high expectations, moved to 15th in points after Saturday's finish. She's a better driver on 1.5-mile tracks than short tracks, she said, because it's something she's used to.
"You're getting load in the corner...instead of the car just kind of skating around (like at a short track)," she said. "And I was decent in mile-and-a-halfs in IndyCar, too. So perhaps it's a technique, perhaps it's a confidence thing. I don't know."
Her short-track abilities will be tested again next week at Bristol, though, where she crashed and finished 33rd in her only start there last year.
"Just as a competitor and someone (running for) the points now, I would like to get some good results," she said. "But if I keep going through the process, and if I keep learning, they'll come."