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Danica drops to rear of field with engine change

Apr 7, 2013, 12:22 PM EDT

STP Gas Booster 500 - Practice Getty Images

Danica Patrick will be starting at the rear of the field for today’s STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Patrick had qualified 32nd on Friday for her first run on the tough Virginia half-mile, but now must start all the way back due to an engine change on her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet — making what was already expected to be a big challenge even bigger for the former IndyCar racer.

Going into the weekend, Patrick admitted that she wasn’t sure what to expect in her inaugural race at NASCAR’s shortest track.

“I have a feeling it’s going to be really challenging and probably a little overwhelming right at first with all the other cars out there up to speed so quickly,” she said. “We tested at Little Rock [the short track at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway] a few weeks ago and I think that will probably serve well and gave me at least a feel for what it is like on these really tiny tracks with low pressures and how the car changes as they come up.

“I’m not really sure what to expect yet, but I’m going to go over and see [team owner] Tony [Stewart] after this and see what he says and take some recommendations on what to do.”

Patrick has had to race from the back a lot lately; her 32nd-place effort on Friday marked her best qualifying effort since winning pole for the Daytona 500 in February.

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