SAO PAULO (AP) - Danica Patrick is tired of seeing poor qualifying runs ruin her chances of a victory before the race even starts.
So it's no surprise going into the Sao Paulo 300 this weekend that Patrick is focusing on putting together a good run Saturday and finally getting herself in contention for a top finish. In the first three races of the season, her best starting position has been 19th at the season opener in St. Petersburg. She followed that with a 22nd starting spot in Alabama and a 20th place in Long Beach.
``For me, the challenge of the weekend is going to be when we go out to qualify, that's my weak area,'' Patrick said Friday. ``My practices have been good so far this year, the races have been great, I passed a lot of cars and I had good race laps, but when you start 20th every weekend it makes it hard to have a good weekend. You have to take chances and they don't always work.''
The race days themselves have been much better, with Patrick able to improve on her starting position in every race so far. She finished 12th in St. Petersburg, 17th in Alabama and seventh two weeks ago in Long Beach.
While she seems to have no problem performing on Sundays, she is struggling to pinpoint what is going wrong on Saturdays.
``If it was that easy I wouldn't have the problem,'' she said. ``I think that the practices and the races are good for me because I'm doing the same thing the whole time. I'm pushing the same amount all the time and doing the same things, breaking at about the same point and things like that. I just need to look deep into that and try to figure out what my teammates are doing to find the time and just practice myself.''
Patrick said she has had a hard time adapting to the new tires on her Andretti Autosport car, which she thinks is also playing a part in her qualifying woes.
``I think it's as simple as I don't manage to find the full grip levels of the new tires,'' Patrick said. ``I think I'm not doing things differently enough in qualifying. It's so competitive now that you have to get back to pushing it and get the most out of the tires.''
The 29-year-old Patrick again has been splitting her time between IndyCar and NASCAR's Nationwide Series this season, and she reaffirmed Friday that she still isn't sure of her plans for 2012 and beyond.
``It is a new point in time this year for me to make some decisions and look inside myself and see what it is that I really want to do,'' she said. ``Whether that is continue doing the same thing that I'm doing, continue down this path or choose a new one. But it's much too early in the year to tell what that answer is going to be. Those things tend to unfold as the year goes on and answers become obvious.''
Patrick struggled to a 15th-place finish at the inaugural Sao Paulo 300 last year. She ran as high as eighth after starting 13th, but a gamble to stay on the track when it started raining ended up costing Patrick a better result.
She arrives is this year's race 11th in the drivers' standings, 65 points behind series leader Dario Franchitti.
Patrick will be one of three women at the Sao Paulo 300 grid on Sunday, along with Brazilian Bia Figueiredo and Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland.

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