The first woman to win an Indycar race makes her last NASCAR appearance today at the Nationwide Series Sams Town 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After that, she returns to the Izod IndyCar series until June.
Patrick is a pin-up princess as well as a racecar driver and her presence has brought a whirlwind of publicity to NASCAR. Chris Powell, Speedway president, this week estimated Patrick has been responsible for selling 15,000 tickets just for today’s race, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Yet she certainly takes her driving seriously and is sorry to go.
“I was telling the boys I’m kind of sad,” she told the Las Vegas Sun. “I really like all of them and I like driving the cars.”
“The more I can drive the car the better,” Patrick went on. “I wouldn’t mind being tested all the time. There’s no end to how much learning you can do.”
Following a crash in her first race at Daytona three weeks ago, she finished 35th. Last weekend she came in 31st, three laps behind the winner. This diffused expectations, which up to then had been sky high.
Patrick says her recent experiences have taught her a lesson.
“What I learned last weekend was not having goals and thinking, ‘I just want to go as fast as I can up front,’ was probably not going to happen,” she told the Las Vegas Sun. “Last weekend I finished 31st, so this week we came in saying we want to finish in the top 25.”
The media attention hasn't bothered her a bit.
“It’s something I can’t control,” she told the Sun. “I’ve done everything I can do to be nice and smile and say hi to every single driver and every single person I see. I hope that [the media attention] doesn’t get in the way of people knowing who I really am.”