Commentary

Frustration doubles for Danica Patrick

Driver unable to break through with TMS win despite two races in her comfort zone

Updated: June 12, 2011, 10:18 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- As soon as Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage announced the idea of the twin races, race officials heard the whispers from fans and media: The format is designed to give Danica Patrick two chances to get a win in Texas.

Most folks were kidding. Well, half-kidding anyway.

[+] EnlargeDanica Patrick
Todd Warshaw/Getty ImagesDanica Patrick finished in 16th place in Saturday's first race at TMS and was eighth in the nightcap.
Patrick has made no secret about how comfortable she is on ovals, where she can go all-out at top speeds. She finished second to Ryan Briscoe in the IndyCar race last year at TMS and is an annual contender at the Indianapolis 500. Patrick's only win came in Japan on an oval, capturing the checkered flag on fuel mileage in 2008 (hey, a win is a win).

But things didn't work out as planned in Saturday's Firestone Twin 275s, as she wasn't really much of a factor. Her frustration was evident even before the first race was completed. Patrick didn't think Jay Howard, the driver in front of her as the race was winding down, was giving her enough room coming out of Turn 4.

"I'm going to pound him so bad if he does it again," Patrick said on her radio.

Howard, who finished one spot in front of Patrick in 15th in the first race, didn't agree.

"You know what, [with] three or four laps to go, I don't know what she wants," Howard said. "Typical, she always whines at people so whatever. I'm concentrating on the person in front. I'm just following everyone else. Everyone is doing the same lines. I'm following everyone else. So if she's frustrated that she couldn't get by then it's not my problem."

Between races, the drivers went on the frontstretch stage to pick their starting spots for the second race at random. They walked up to a tire and turned it over to reveal their position. Patrick had a dour look as she spun her tire around to reveal No. 20.

She never did manage to grab any momentum in the second race, complaining of understeer. She once again pitted before the leaders and that helped her gain a bunch of spots, moving from the middle of the field to an eventual eighth-place finish.

Patrick sat on the wall on pit road after the second race was over, clearly disappointed. She admitted that was magnified by the fact that she had such high expectations coming into the weekend.

"It just wasn't as consistent a car as it was last year," Patrick said. "We tried a few different things and I guess, perhaps, if it's not broken don't fix it. Last year we had a good car. You are always trying to figure out how to go a little faster and be a little better out there. I don't fault me or anybody for trying something different, but it was less consistent than it was last year."

She agreed with many of her fellow drivers who felt the random draw between races wasn't as fair as it could be with championship points -- half of them anyway -- on the line. But she understands the sport has to get more fan appeal and is curious to see if this format helped.

"I'm a fan of anything that gets people to watch our races because we really need that," Patrick said. "We need that as a series and for the sponsors and everybody involved. I do see the side that it's a little bit unfair to be going for championship points on a random draw for qualifying. That is a little unfair, I'll agree. But I think that we're in a tough spot right now as a series. We need to do what we can to get fans but still keep the integrity of the race. So we try it for a little bit and see if it works."

Patrick and her team will keep trying to come up with a winning combination. She hasn't had her breakthrough finish yet in 2011. She was 10th at the Indy 500 after leading the race in the latter stages. She finished seventh in Long Beach and grabbed another top-10 in the second race Saturday at TMS. She'll head to Milwaukee hoping to put it all together to contend for his first win in more than three years.

Richard Durrett covers motor sports for ESPNDallas.com.

Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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