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“I think deep down inside she knows whether she’s ready to go to the Cup series,” Sadler said. “I think the more experience she gets at whatever level it is that she will get better. This is way different racing than open-wheel racing. I think she’s improved tremendously over the last couple of years. She’s always been able to go fast. That’s one thing _ that girl is not scared of going fast. She just needs more racing experience, door to door, bumper to bumper, close-quarter racing, and I think as she gets that these last 12 races, deep down inside she’ll know whether she’s ready or not to make the jump.”

Patrick said she would run races in the Nationwide series next year, and that’s music to the ears of crew chief Tony Eury Jr.

“We’d like to see her run this series again next year,” Eury said after Patrick posted the fourth-fastest time in the second practice on Friday. “I think the Cup deal is going to be really challenging, but she’s done really good. She’s really stepped up her game in the last three years.

“She’s definitely had a challenge because everything that the IndyCar does, in this world it’s the complete opposite, for driving lines to the way you brake, the way you race, so she’s had a lot of issues that she’s had to get over and overcome,” Eury said. “She’s done really well.”

As for that run-in with Villeneuve, it’s in the rearview mirror _ for now.

“That deal at Road America was just somebody that’s on the track that has no respect for anybody,” Eury said. “It wasn’t just singling out her. That’s just a common denominator. She’s getting in there and mixing it up. She gets a little bit when she deserves it.”

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John Kekis can be followed at http://twitter.com/Greek1947