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NASCAR's Danica Patrick: Performance 'going in the right direction'

NASCAR's Danica Patrick: Performance 'going in the right direction'
Danica Patrick stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Sept. 26 (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

NASCAR's Danica Patrick is a middling 28th in the point standings -- the same spot she held seven months ago -- but to hear her tell it, she's getting better.

"It's all going in the right direction," Patrick said Wednesday in a telephone interview from New York, where she unveiled a pink race car she'll drive this month to promote breast cancer awareness.

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"Things have definitely improved this year, especially in the areas I wanted, with qualifying and restarts, which have been going much, much better," she said.

This is Patrick's second full year in NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup Series; she finished 27th in the title standings in her rookie year.

The former IndyCar driver, who migrated to stock-car racing a few years ago, drives the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, the team co-owned by three-time champion Tony Stewart.

Part of Patrick's struggle has reflected poor qualifying runs, which left her starting races deep in the 43-car field each weekend.

But in the last four races, she's qualified 13th twice and 18th twice, which Patrick said was notable because the 16 drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff -- which started three weeks ago -- "are pushing like crazy" to earn top qualifying spots.

Patrick, 32, also said she is looking forward to this Sunday's race at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval because one of her three top-10 finishes this year came at the spring race at Kansas in May.

"Of all the remaining [seven] races, it's probably the one I have the most hope for" in securing a solid finish, she said.

Patrick also is threatening to overtake her boyfriend, fellow Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., in the title standings. Stenhouse, who drives for Roush Fenway Racing, is 27th in the standings, 16 points ahead of Patrick.

After Kansas, Patrick will race her pink car at the next three races at Charlotte, N.C.; Talladega, Ala., and Martinsville, Va.

In a program managed by Patrick's main sponsor, GoDaddy.com, people who donate $10 or more to the National Breast Cancer Foundation online by 9 a.m. PDT Thursday also can have the name of a loved one placed on Patrick's car at Martinsville.

Follow @PeltzLATimes for more motor racing news

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