Patrick bounced around early again

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Danica Patrick was hoping some of her IndyCar Series success at Texas Motor Speedway might pay off Saturday.

But as she has learned elsewhere this season, running well in an open-wheel car doesn't mean much in a stock car.

She challenged for a victory at TMS in June before finishing second to Ryan Briscoe in the IndyCar event, but never got a chance to run near the front in the Nationwide race Saturday.

Patrick couldn't escape damage from cars wrecking in front of her early in the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, and found herself two laps down 15 laps into the race. She kept battling and finished 22nd, three laps down.

On a day when Brad Keselowski clinched his first Nationwide championship -- giving Roger Penske his first NASCAR title -- and Carl Edwards won at TMS for the first time in a Nationwide event, Patrick had another day of taking her lumps in the long learning process.

Patrick started 27th in the No. 7 Chevrolet and was running 29th when two cars banged off the wall in front of her.

She saw trouble immediately and did everything right, turning low on the track to try to avoid the bumping and banging.

It looked like she might make it through before Erik Darnell had the same idea in front of her. He quickly turned to the left, but didn't see Patrick closing behind him and rammed into Patrick's right-front quarter panel.

Patrick came to pit road for the crew to check the damage and returned to the field in 38th place, two laps down.

The rest of the day was just logging laps and getting some seat time on a high-speed 1.5-mile oval, but Patrick kept working. It was frustrating at times, as she told crew chief Tony Eury Jr. with 90 laps to go.

"It just won't turn," she said. "I got to Turn 3 and it doesn't turn, like the tire is flat. I thought I was going to hit the wall and had to get out of it."

Patrick was told things weren't as bad as they seemed. She was turning laps in 31.3 seconds, which was better than half of the cars running in the top 10.

Patrick still has a chance to end her first-year NASCAR experiment on a high note. She will race the final two Nationwide events this season: at Phoenix next weekend and at Homestead, Fla., in two weeks.

"I understand that I've got a lot to learn and I'm open to any opinion at all, from anyone," Patrick said Friday. "I will take it and try to use it. I have no ego. I understand it's a learning process."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Terry can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.