Patrick says she’s learning, but it will take time

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Danica Patrick emerged from her bright green No. 10 car Sunday night with a smile.

No, she didn’t win. Not even close.

She finished five laps down in 30th place in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600. That hardly mattered to Patrick, who completed her third Sprint Cup race without wrecking, another step in the right direction in her new stock car racing career.

“This is still good experience for me and that’s what this is all about,” Patrick said.

Patrick says she got nostalgic earlier in the day watching the Indianapolis 500 on television and is considering running both races in the same day at some point. For now, Patrick is done with Sprint Cup racing for a while. Her next race is Aug. 25 at Bristol.

Patrick was never a factor to win the Coca-Cola 600 _ not that she expected to be.

“For me I have so much to learn,” she said.

Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli is confident Patrick is improving with each race, although many don’t realize how difficult the transition is from IndyCar.

“It’s hard,” Zipadelli said. “You can’t throw somebody to the wolves and expect. … I mean, we really picked some hard races for her.”

This was her best Sprint Cup finish.

The Nationwide Series regular finished 38th in the Daytona 500 and 31st at the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C. in her previous two Cup races.

“She had a great attitude and got better,” Zipadelli said. “Here and at Darlington, who would have thought we would get all of those green flag runs? We started a little tight but we needed to be conservative. But I think she improved throughout the day and throughout the weekend.”

On a couple of occasions Patrick got nudged out of the way by faster cars.

“There were a couple of times out there it felt like it was a little unnecessary, but at the same time I’m new,” Patrick said. “That’s the way it goes. … I’m prepared completely to get out of the way of the lead-lap cars.”

Patrick said she’s biding her time for now and just trying to gain experience.

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