NASCAR Notebook: Danica happy to be home, looks forward to IndyNationwide Series drivers Elliott Sadler and defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both came to Chicago under the weather, each one battling a flu bug as they race for $100,000 in the second race of the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash.
By: By Jerry Bonkowski, Special to NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
JOLIET, Ill. – After spending more than half the year on the road, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick is glad to be back in her home state of Illinois.
The driver of the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet grew up in Roscoe, Ill, just outside of Rockford, the state's second-largest city and less than two hours from Chicagoland Speedway.
"As a kid, I loved going into the city and downtown Chicago," Patrick said. "It's a beautiful place. We have some friends coming out to the track this weekend. It's close to home and that's good, We'll see some familiar faces, and hopefully we can have a good weekend."
Patrick has two prior starts at Chicagoland Speedway in a Nationwide Series car, finishing 24th in her debut in 2010, and then showing dramatic improvement with a 10th-place finish there last year.
"The mile-and-a-halfs are definitely more of our strength," said Patrick, currently ninth in the Nationwide standings. "It was a decent race here last year. Fuel came into play a little bit at the end, and it very well could again.
"Watching past races, there's not always a ton of yellows here. We'll just work on having a good, consistent car here this weekend."
There will be one distinct difference from last year's to race to Sunday's, though: the 2011 event was run under the lights, while Sunday's race will be in the heat of the afternoon.
"I don't think it'll make a huge difference," Patrick said. "The car does transition through a little bit of changes as it gets cooler and darker, but it's usually not so far out of the ballpark that you can't make little adjustments through the race, keep up with it and fix a problem.
"Maybe if it's hot and slippery like it's supposed to be (temperatures are expected in the low-to-mid 90s), there could be more opportunities for yellows happening during the race just because it's more challenging conditions."
PATRICK READY FOR TOTALLY DIFFERENT INDY
Patrick returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend to race for the first time since she became a full-time NASCAR competitor this season.
But instead of driving an Indy car, she'll be competing in the first-ever Nationwide Series race to be held at the fabled Brickyard.
Patrick is prepared for a much different event, having already strategized what she'll have to do behind the wheel of a much different vehicle.
"In an Indy car, there's no lifting and it's right around the bottom of the track, and it's a big, high-speed chess match with cars running very close to each other," Patrick said. "In a stock car, you run a more traditional line, there's lifting and perspective-wise, they definitely have a different feel based on the lines you run, and the fact that in IndyCar, you sit so low.
"It happens everywhere I go and when I've been there in an Indy car to a stock car, it's always just a little bit different."
THE FLU KNOWS NO SEASON
Nationwide Series drivers Elliott Sadler and defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both came to Chicago under the weather, each one battling a flu bug as they race for $100,000 in the second race of the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash.
Sadler spent nearly 36 hours in bed prior to coming to the track on Saturday morning.
"I think I got a stomach virus from my son," Sadler said. "He had it last weekend."
Even though Sadler tweeted in the morning that he was ailing, Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, who won the opening Dash 4 Cash race last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, apparently missed it.
When Sadler was asked about how he was feeling and revealed how sick he had actually been the last three days, he looked over at Dillon during a news conference in the speedway's media center and quipped, "You might want to get away from me, Austin. Yeah, good move."
Dillon moved his chair a few feet in the opposite direction and then covered his mouth.
"I didn't know he was sick," Dillon deadpanned.
On a more serious note, Sadler said he hopes to be close to normal health-wise in Sunday's race, noting that hydration -- particularly with temperatures expected in the low-to-mid 90s -- will be key.
"I'm on the back side (of the illness) and hopefully by tomorrow we'll feel a little better," Sadler said. "I've just got to keep getting better. If I'd have raced yesterday or this morning, I'd have really had a hard time. But I actually feel myself getting better.
"We'll gradually work our way back up fluid-wise and stuff like that to be make sure I'm hydrated as much as I can for (Sunday)."
Sadler couldn't avoid one last good-natured shot at his teammate, who was scrambling for hand sanitizer when Sadler joked, "I hope it's not contagious, Austin."
PATIENCE NOT A VIRTUE FOR PASTRANA
Patience was never a virtue when Travis Pastrana raced motorcycles. He simply kick-started his bike, took off and held on for the ride of his life.
But Pastrana is learning that racing on four wheels is a bit more methodical -- and certainly requires more patience -- than two-wheel racing.
Fortunately for the impatient Pastrana, he's getting a lot of help from driver coach and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Matt Crafton, who happens to be one of the most patient drivers in NASCAR.
"I see the carrot in front of me and (Crafton's) like, 'Just slow down your entry.' I'm like, 'They're pulling away.' He's like, 'Look, this is how fast you setup the car, this is as fast as you can come in and you have to beat them coming off the corner.' I want to just come in like in motocross and everything else has been about aggression.
"So for me, (it's difficult) to be patient with the driving and keeping from burning the right rear completely off the tire and not being sideways. The harder I try to drive these cars, the slower I drive. I want to keep getting in there and keep getting more experience."
There's no question Pastrana is talented, be it on two or four wheels. Crafton likes what he sees in his young charge.
"He's very good to work with and learn and wants to do this," Crafton said of Pastrana. "I mean, he really truly wants to do this, and he will get it.
"Honestly, I didn't know if I was going to like it (coaching Pastrana). But he's been so willing to learn and wanting to learn so much, that's what is so awesome about it."
Pastrana will make his sixth Nationwide Series start in Sunday's STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. He's looking for a better finish than he's had in his first five efforts: 22nd (Richmond), 17th (Darlington), 26th (Iowa), 24th (Charlotte) and 31st last week at Loudon.
KLIGERMAN, BUSCH ATOP NATIONWIDE PRACTICE LEADERBOARD
Parker Kligerman is going for the Camping World Truck Series championship, but that didn't keep him from turning the fastest lap during Saturday's second Nationwide Series practice.
Driving the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge, Kligerman topped the field with a best lap of 172.695 mph, one of only two drivers to exceed 172 mph, the other being Danica Patrick (172.601 mph).
The drivers making up the rest of final practice's top 10 were Austin Dillon (171.799 mph), rookie Cole Whitt (171.641 mph), Kyle Busch (171.510 mph), Brendan Gaughan (171.429 mph), Justin Allgaier (171.342 mph), Michael Annett (171.227 mph), Ryan Truex (170.568 mph) and Mike Bliss (170.503 mph).
In Saturday morning's first practice, Busch paced the field with a speed of 171.450 mph, followed by Sadler (171.021 mph), Sam Hornish Jr. (170.951 mph), Stenhouse Jr. (170.740 mph) and Kligerman (170.622 mph).
Rounding out the top 10 in the morning practice were Whitt (170.159 mph), Truex (170.025 mph), Dillon (169.651 mph), Brian Scott (169.635 mph) and James Buescher (169.566 mph).