Patrick biding her time for victory lap

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RICHMOND, Va. - Danica Patrick is in her third season as the most talked-about driver in the IndyCar Series.

Danica Patrick is still waiting to get her first win in the IndyCar Series and become the first woman to win a race.  AP / File
AP / File
Danica Patrick is still waiting to get her first win in the IndyCar Series and become the first woman to win a race.

And the still-winless Patrick doesn't know how much 'Danicamania' will intensify when she takes her first checkered flag.

She's sure of one thing, though - it's a matter of when, not if.

"It's going to be nice to do it. It's probably going to come when everyone least expects it, including myself, but it's time," she said. "It's time to just do it and get it over with, and I can't tell you that I'm going to be over-the-moon ecstatic.

"I'm going to be relieved."

The attention a victory by Patrick would bring the series would also be huge, but that doesn't mean that other drivers are necessarily rooting for history to be made.

Dan Wheldon, 2005 series champion, openly admits he is attracted by the packed houses that NASCAR draws for its races. But he said he doesn't want Patrick, or anyone else who could boost ratings, to win for any reason other than that she's earned it.

"You want to see her win because she's warranted of winning," Wheldon said. "And I'm sure she will do (it) eventually. At the end of the day, I like to go to each individual race and see the person who performs the best win."

Since arriving in the series in 2005 and surging to the top in popularity by being accommodating and leading the Indianapolis 500 for 19 laps and finishing fourth, Patrick feels like she has moved closer to becoming the first woman to win a race.

She finished a career-best third earlier this year at Texas. She said she's also gaining familiarity with her new Andretti Green Racing team.

As the rookie of the year with Rahal Letterman Racing in 2005, she said her equipment was superior and helped her to a 12th-place finish overall.

Last year, her experience helped her finish ninth in the standings even though her car struggled.

This year, even her teammates are anticipating a victory and joking that they'll shave off her beloved long black hair to welcome her to the ranks of race winners.

"They're also a little bit mischievous," she said of points leader Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti. "Obviously, they know that I like my hair."

The series will make its seventh visit to Richmond International Raceway this weekend, and tonight's SunTrust Indy Challenge will be the second consecutive event run on a short oval. Last week, Patrick was 13th in the Iowa Corn Indy 250, the second-best of seven cars taken out of the crash-filled race by an accident.

But while Patrick has finished 10th and 15th in her two previous starts at Richmond, she said returning to the series' shortest track gets her motivated.

"I think the racing is very good," she said.


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