Danica Patrick turned a few laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in more than a year Tuesday, this time with a special passenger.
Patrick drove around the famous 2.5-mile oval in a two-seater version of her
No. 7 GoDaddy.com/ NASCAR Unites "An American Salute" Chevrolet, with
TV personality Katie Couric in the passenger seat.
The laps also served as a precursor to Patrick's official return to the
Brickyard when she makes her IMS stock-car debut in the Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday, July 28.
"It feels really good to be at the track," Patrick said. "I enjoyed the laps that I made out there. I really, really enjoyed coming out of Turn 4 and coming down the front straightaway and seeing everything again."
Patrick last raced at IMS in the 2011 Indianapolis 500, finishing 10th. It was one of her six Top-10 results in seven starts in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" since 2005, when she earned Rookie of the Year honors with a fourth-place finish.
After dabbling in the Nationwide Series last year, Patrick made a full-time switch to NASCAR in 2012. She is running the full Nationwide schedule for JR Motorsports, in addition to a partial Sprint Cup Series season for Stewart-Haas Racing. Plans call for a full-time Cup schedule in 2013.
Patrick is excited for the transition to stock-car racing at Indy. She is ninth
in the Nationwide Series standings, with one top-10 finish. "Obviously,
I'm going to be a few inches or feet higher up in the seat from a visual
perspective in a stock car, but nothing is going to feel better than to get
back out there again," Patrick said. "I fell right into place. I feel
so comfortable here and I have such a great emotion just coming into the track
that I feel like that helps me overall be better because I feel so good and I
feel so positive.
"It's good to be back here. I didn't think my first laps in a stock car
around here would be a school stock car, but I thought it was a good lead-in to
a couple of weeks from now when we're actually here for the real deal."
Tuesday, however, was all about fun. Patrick and Couric struck up a friendship
during the ride of a lifetime for Couric.
"I was very, very, very quiet," said Couric of her initial reaction
to the speed and roar of a stock car. "I was nervous at first, but I had a
lot of fun.
"I'm a huge fan of Danica's and have watched her career for many years now.
It was fun for me to get to spend time with her, learn a little more about what
makes her tick and about some of the choices she's made and things she's done
in her life. I'm very impressed."
Photo Credit: Michael Conroy. Associated Press