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Danica mania about to hit Phoenix International Raceway
On the eve of her first Valley race in five years, Danica Patrick admits NASCAR has been more difficult than she expected, yet is less stressful than the IndyCar series where she gained national fame.

"Yes, it has been a little more difficult than I thought it would be," Patrick said in an interview with The Republic before Saturday's Wypall 200 Nationwide series event at Phoenix International Raceway.

"But, there have been times when it's been easier, like, 'OK! Why can't that happen every time?'"

The Scottsdale resident's great adventure into stock car racing, however, has been more rough road than paved highway.

In 11 starts in the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Patrick's best finish was 21st last month at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Five times she's been involved in crashes triggered by other drivers.

Patrick says she is learning by the lap - 1,647 so far - but the challenge is daunting. Nationwide cars are about 1,800 pounds heavier than an Indy 500 car, with roughly 100 more horsepower, and generate much less track-hugging aerodynamic downforce.

Rusty Wallace, the 1989 Sprint Cup champion-turned-ESPN analyst, met with Patrick more than a year ago when she was considering her stock options.

"I told her, 'This is going to be the hardest thing you've ever done,'" Wallace said. AZCentral.com

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