BRISTOL, Tenn. — Danica Patrick channeled her best Austin Powers impersonation to characterize her recent run of bad luck.
“Who throws a shoe?” Patrick asked Friday in a faux English accent. “I mean, really?”
The line from the original “Austin Powers” movie applies to Patrick after she ran over a shoe while leading last weekend at Montreal. It’s not clear if running over the shoe was entirely at fault for ruining her race, but it marked the beginning of the end of her attempt to win her first NASCAR race.
“(I was) looking forward to having a shot to win, and that happened in the lead,” she said. “Whether it was what caused the problem or not, I don’t know. But it definitely was what ended up leading toward the end of our day.”
The shoe, which she described as dark with a light-colored sole, was the latest incident in what Patrick has called the worst streak of bad luck in her career. She wrecked on the first lap at Watkins Glen and was spun by Jacques Villeneuve at Road America — two other tracks where she might have contended for the win.
“I can’t tell how many people said after Watkins Glen what bad luck I had — and then I hit a shoe,” she said. “So I don’t feel like it can get a lot worse. I don’t know if anybody has ever hit a shoe before. It’s just a weird situation. I’m ready for it to turn, I’m ready for some good luck and some good results. I can’t remember having this much bad luck.
“I don’t ever remember feeling like I just can’t seem to catch a break for so long and in such big ways sometimes.”
Patrick rolls into Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, where she’s scheduled to run both the Nationwide Series race and Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race. She spun on her first qualifying lap for the Nationwide race, and was the slowest car on the track in both Sprint Cup practice sessions.
Tony Stewart, who owns her Sprint Cup Series team, picked the hardest tracks on the schedule for Patrick to run this year as a test session for a planned full Cup season in 2013. The three-time NASCAR champion last week asked for patience with Patrick, and said expectations have been too hard on the former open-wheel star.
He repeated Friday he just wants her to get experience at her own pace.
“My goal is for her just to finish the race. It’s not going to be an easy day for her by any means, but it’s not supposed to be,” he said. “We picked the hard tracks and you are going to have to run them at some point. The biggest thing is while she’s not racing for points this year it’s better to bring her now and let her get some experience here before she does come back and is racing for points next year.”
Patrick said she won’t know until next season if Stewart’s scheduling helps.
“We’ll know if it’s beneficial next year when either I feel much more comfortable coming back to those tracks or I have better results,” she said. “At this point and time, it’s about gaining the experience. There is a saying, ’What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ So I’m sure that it will help in the long run.
“As long as I can keep my head up and stay confident, and stay looking forward and upbeat, I think they will serve that purpose. But, there’s always that chance that these are humbling moments especially being at the tough tracks they are at and the tough races that they are. I’ve just got to focus on staying positive.”
Stewart stressed that Patrick is supposed to struggle.
“It’s not meant to be easy,” he said. “It’s supposed to be hard and it’s supposed to be frustrating. You are supposed to leave here scratching your head wondering, but that is part of the learning curve of joining this sport. I’m sure at the end of the year she’s going to hate me, but when she comes back to these tracks next year it is going to make sense why we brought her here.”