Updated at: 04/05/2013 8:36 PM
By HANK KURZ Jr.
(AP) MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Danica Patrick isn’t sure what to expect in her debut at Martinsville Speedway, but she has a plan.
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Tony Stewart, who owns her team, is a three-time series champion with three career victories at Martinsville, a tricky 0.526-mile oval that is the smallest NASCAR’s premier series visits.
"I’m not going out too far behind him and he’s pretty good," Patrick said of Stewart. "I’ll be looking, trying to see where the line is and see where to go. It’s bottom, bottom, so at least there’s that much going for me when I get out there."
Patrick tested at Little Rock, a small track in Rockingham, N.C., trying to get a feel for what it would be like trying to navigate a track so tight, and said if nothing else, the test gave her an appreciation for how quickly the turns arrive.
"Am I going to go out there and be just fine or am I going to go out there and be a total disaster?" she said. "It might feel like those times when I drove a Nationwide car for the first time at tracks that I hadn’t been to and all I do is look in my mirror the whole time for what’s going on."
Through five races, Patrick is 29th in points, won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 and has a best finish of eighth, also at Daytona. In her subsequent races, she’s finished no better than 26th.
Getting to the track was a start, she said.
"Definitely being here for the first time and understanding how challenging it is, I feel like it’s only up from here," she said. "I have no doubt that it will be a hard day, but I’m also of the belief that it can also be a really fun day. I mean, a good car is a good car.
"If it’s good and it’s hooked up and it’s turning, and the practice day we did a few weeks ago translates to this track and the car performs as well as it did at practice that day, there’s no reason we can’t have a decent day."
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(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)