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Danica struggling in Junior's car, but NASCAR's Earnhardt has his own problems

July 9, 2010 |  4:02 pm

Danica Patrick was back with NASCAR on Friday in a Nationwide Series car owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., but that didn't mean the two popular drivers spent much time together.

Patrick was using another off week in the Izod IndyCar Series to try her hand at stock-car racing, and was competing in the Nationwide race at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway tri-oval in Joliet, Ill., on Friday night.

Danica She qualified 28th fastest for the race, and she finished 30th in her previous Nationwide race June 26 in New Hampshire.That was her highest finish in four Nationwide races so far.

Earnhardt, in turn, was preparing for the Saturday night race at Chicagoland in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series. On Friday, he was asked if he and Patrick had compared notes.

"I haven't talked to her since New Hampshire," Earnhardt told reporters, according to a transcript from Team Chevy Racing. "She's got a crew chief, I don't need to talk to her. I've got my own set of damn problems to deal with."

With his fourth-place finish last weekend at Daytona, Earnhardt climbed to 11th in the Cup standings, and it's the top 12 drivers after 26 races who qualify to compete in the Chase title playoff over the remaining 10 races of the season.

But after the Daytona race, Earnhardt apologized to his fans, saying the finish in his No. 88 Chevrolet was "lucky" because his team "didn't have a car to compete" that night.

He elaborated Friday, saying, "We need to keep working hard, we need to get better," and added that "I'm nervous about losing points and not making the Chase." However, Earnhardt did score an emotional win in the Nationwide race at Daytona, driving a Chevy with the No. 3 paint scheme made famous by his late father, seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.

--Jim Peltz

Photos: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (top) signs autographs and Danica Patrick (right) waits in the garage Friday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., site of the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup races Friday and Saturday, respectively. Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images