Danica Patrick: No backup plan for Darlington qualifying

Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, answers questions before practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images for NASCAR)

FORT WORTH, Texas — How concerned is Danica Patrick about the possibility of having to qualify on speed at Darlington?

Not enough to have considered a backup plan if the No. 10 Chevrolet she shares with David Reutimann remains outside the top 35 in owner points.

Patrick is scheduled to run 10 Cup races this season. Her first was the Daytona 500, where she fell victim to a crash on Lap 2. Her second scheduled race is the May 12 Southern 500 at Darlington.

When Patrick drives the Cup car, Stewart-Haas Racing prepares it. When Reutimann drives the No. 10 Chevy, the car is fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing, the idea being that Reutimann will keep the car in the top 35 in owner points and thereby exempt from qualifying on speed.

On April 1 at Martinsville, however, the car fell one position outside the top 35 despite Reutimann’s controversial efforts to nurse a wounded car to the finish — controversial because the car lost power, stopped on the frontstretch and caused a caution that changed the complexion of the race.

Because the No. 10 is only one point behind the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota driven by Landon Cassill, Patrick isn’t particularly concerned about her car’s owner points position — for now.

“I feel pretty confident in the car and Tommy Baldwin to get it in the top 35,” Patrick said Thursday before practice for Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. “They’re a great group, and they’re working really hard.

“We haven’t talked about a backup plan, but there’s always that backup plan that, if you have to qualify, that’s what you do.”

At Darlington, the task of keeping the car in the top 35 rests on Patrick’s shoulders, if she hopes to stay exempt from qualifying on speed for the next Cup points on the schedule — and her third planned start — the May 27 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

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