Danica Patrick’s initial return to the storied oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was brief. One lap, not even up to speed.
After having a March refresher course pushed back because of bad weather, then waiting through Monday’s practice and Tuesday’s rookie orientation program, Patrick finally pulled her neon green No. 13 car onto the 2.5-mile oval four minutes into the afternoon session Tuesday — only to return immediately to pit road with a water temperature problem.
Eventually, the car was towed back to the garage as Patrick followed. She returned to the track about an hour later.
All she can do now is hope the rest of this month goes a little smoother.
The 36-year-old Patrick is the biggest draw for this week’s three-day test session as she prepares for the final race of her career. Patrick is attempting to make her seventh start on the Indianapolis 500’s traditional 33-car starting grid, though at least two entries will not make the field depending on how qualifying goes. The race will be held May 27 and then Patrick will retire.
Team owner Ed Carpenter senses Patrick is a little anxious about climbing back into an Indy car cockpit for the first time since leaving the series for NASCAR following the 2011 IndyCar season.
“I think she’s a little nervous because it’s been so long,” he said. “But I told her yesterday that I get nervous every year because this place is so special. I told her I’d be more worried if she wasn’t nervous about getting back in. She does have a lot of experience and although things change, the way you drive this race track stays the same.”
Patrick sure didn’t seem nervous. Instead, Patrick looked determined as more than a dozen reporters gathered for her pre-driving routine. She strapped into her seat, pulled down her helmet visor and got the go signal from her team just four minutes after the green flag opened the session.
Patrick wasn’t the only driver taking refresher laps. Sage Karam followed Patrick onto the track and Jay Howard was scheduled to drive as well.
Patrick was the 2005 Indy 500 rookie of the year and is one of 14 drivers to lead the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500.
More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/