Chicagoland Speedway is the fifth race in Danica Patrick's 12-race tour of the Nationwide Series and her third race on an intermediate style race track.
At Auto Club Speedway, Danica finished the race but was three laps off the pace, and at Las Vegas she crashed with Michael McDowell and finished 36th.
Patrick's last race at New Hampshire is a throwaway race given her experience level and the fact that IndyCars behave considerably differently on short ovals than stock cars. While there's also a stark difference between IndyCars and stock cars on intermediate tracks, there are more things that carry over. (For example, momentum through the corners is important on ovals in the IndyCar Series and vital in the Nationwide Series thanks to the tapered spacers in the Nationwide engines.)
While a top 10 isn't realistic, is it too much to think that Danica should finish on the lead lap? She's got two sets of data -- albeit one is incomplete -- as she heads to Chicago, plus she's been there recently in an IndyCar. Yes, this is a bigger learning curve for her than many of us realized, but if Danica's going to have success in stock cars, something needs to click -- even if it's just for a few laps -- fairly soon.
Maybe that click will happen after the IndyCar season is over, or even in 2011. But given the mass attention devoted to her every start, the sooner it clicks the better.
- Chicagoland Speedway