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Friday, March 9, 2012
Updated: March 10, 12:27 PM ET
Danica Patrick back in Las Vegas

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- Danica Patrick, who was on the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when Dan Wheldon was killed in the IndyCar Series race last October, said Wheldon is in her thoughts this weekend.

"There won't be a time that I come here and not think about Dan," Patrick said Friday. "Obviously, the last time I was here was a sad weekend. My thoughts are still with Susie (Wheldon's widow) and the kids, and I hope they're doing well."

The IndyCar Series event at LVMS last October was going to be Patrick's final race in the series before moving full-time to NASCAR. But the event was canceled after Wheldon was killed in a terrifying multicar accident early in the race.

The 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval is the place where Patrick made history one year ago with her fourth-place finish in the Nationwide Series event, the best finish for a woman in a NASCAR event.

She said she feels more comfortable in the stock car than she did in the open-wheel car at this track.

"The thing that made that accident so big (a car's tires rolling over the back tires of the car in front of it) is it really doesn't happen in these cars," she said. "There's definitely some peace in that and some factors in these cars that give you some bravery."

The 2012 IndyCar chassis has part of the body around the rear wheel to prevent another car's tires from rolling over it.

Patrick was asked if it was hard to get in her No. 7 Chevrolet for the first practice session Friday.

"As race car drivers, our job is to drive the cars to the edge," Patrick said. "We need to be able to do it with our whole heart and mind. I went out to drive like any other day. It's your single focus.

"But it's the moments outside of the car when you remember so much. I don't think it ever completely escapes you."