INDIANAPOLIS -- Returning to the track that first made her famous, NASCAR's Danica Patrick on Saturday qualified 33rd in the 43-car field for the Brickyard 400 on Sunday.
As a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, this will be Patrick's first race driving a Cup car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as she continues to adapt to stock-car racing's premier circuit.
She acknowledged it's been a struggle this weekend at Indy, where she nearly won the famed Indianapolis 500 in 2005 when she was a rookie driver in the IndyCar series.
"There are times that I feel, like here, where my inexperience with the [Cup] car is definitely hurting me more," she said. "I wish that I was better off than I am right now, but we are getting better."
Driving the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, Patrick qualified at 182.938 mph at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis track, much slower than pole-sitter Ryan Newman's 187.531 mph.
Patrick, 31, reiterated that her season is "a process" and she's keeping her expectations in check. Although she finished eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500, her average finish through the season's first 19 races is 25th.
"Hoping for top 10s and wins all the time is fairly unrealistic," she said.
"If there is one thing I've learned, it's about baby steps and it's about making realistic goals that you can achieve," Patrick said. "Otherwise it's just constantly frustrating."
Patrick also said she recently asked her team co-owner, three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, how she was doing.
"He said, 'If I saw there being an issue, or something that stood out as a problem, or an area you needed to work on, I would have to come to you already, but I don't see it,' " Patrick said.
"He said we have to work on the cars and make them better, and he thinks I am doing a good job," she said.