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Danica Patrick set to rejoin NASCAR in Michigan

August 12, 2010 |  3:29 pm

Can Danica Patrick crack the top 20 this time?

The popular IndyCar driver returns to NASCAR on Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway, one of several races she's entering in NASCAR's second-tier series this year to see how she likes stock-car racing.

Danica This will be her sixth Nationwide race; in her first four events she finished 30th or worse, in some cases because she was collected in accidents. But in her most recent NASCAR race, at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., on July 9, she finished 24th while keeping her car out of trouble.

Now she'll be driving her No. 7 Chevrolet, prepared by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team, at the two-mile Michigan oval that's nearly identical to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Patrick finished 31st in her second NASCAR race in February.

"Looking back at Chicagoland, I think it was a very positive race for me," Patrick said in notes released by her team. "We were able to run the entire race fairly clean, which was something we needed. Getting laps and more laps are what I'm focused on right now."

In the Izod IndyCar Series, meanwhile, Patrick often has struggled this season (she's 11th in the point standings), fueling the debate about whether splitting her time between IndyCar and NASCAR in the same season is hurting her in both. It's a notion she's repeatedly rejected. Now in her sixth season of IndyCar racing, Patrick has one win on that circuit, in Motegi, Japan, in 2008.

After Michigan, Patrick returns to IndyCar racing Aug. 22 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Danica Patrick following a practice session July 24 for the Izod IndyCar Series race in Edmonton,  Canada. Credit: Jeff McIntosh / Associated Press-The Canadian Press