INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - As Danica Patrick heads into the second half of her rookie Sprint Cup Series season, she's leaning on boss Tony Stewart to gauge her progress.
On paper, it doesn't look so hot: Patrick is 27th in the standings with only one top-10 finish on the year.
But the team owner is satisfied with her development, and thinks Stewart-Haas Racing hasn't given her the best equipment to compete this year.
"I asked Tony after Loudon how I was doing, and what does he really expect out of me," Patrick said Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "To some degree that's the real question _ what are the expectations of me? Do you think I am supposed to be top-20 and top-15 all the time? Or am I not?
"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 come to you already, but I don't see it. And every time I am behind you, you are doing the right thing.' He said `We have to work on the cars and make them better,' and he thinks I am doing a good job. That's the boss, so ... ."
Stewart said Saturday Patrick often asks questions about performance, and he's "been proud of her from day one." He also bristled at recent comments by analyst Kyle Petty, who said Patrick is a marketing tool and will never be a good race car driver.
"I think when Kyle Petty said the stuff he did, I think he was way out of line and very inappropriate," Stewart said. "There are a lot of factors that go into it and you know, some of the finishes that we know she should have had had been pit crew related ... it's not just her.
"So, when somebody like Kyle beats you up like that I mean you take it to heart and she's somebody who wants to do things the right way. She works at it. So I think that it's a scenario where somebody had just got to tell her, you are doing the right things and disregard what one person says."
Stewart also said Patrick handles disappointment well and takes criticism just fine.
"She doesn't sit there and pout about it. She's like `OK, if something's not right, what do I do to make it better?' " Stewart said. "She's got the right mindset, I mean, she does the right things. She asks the right questions. I mean I've said it from day one, she just does everything right in my opinion."
Patrick said she's learned to temper her expectations each week.
"I think that hoping for top 10s and wins all the time is fairly unrealistic," she said. "I think it's far more realistic to hope for top 15s and top 20s right now. If there is one thing I've learned, it's about baby steps and it's about making realistic goals that you can achieve. Otherwise it's just constantly frustrating because if you had set a goal of top 20 and you finish there then you have something to be happy about."