Danica Patrick heading to Bristol, but not that Bristol

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Danica Patrick is headed to Bristol this weekend, but not that Bristol. She’s racing a car in Tennessee, not getting the “Car Wash” treatment from ESPN in Connecticut.

Say the words “Bristol Night Race,” and drivers, crew members and fans immediately think of one of the great spectacles on the Sprint Cup circuit. The .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway with 160,000 seats wrapped around the track is the modern day equivalent of the Roman Circus Maximus. Some have compared the race track to the Roman Colosseum, but that makes little to no sense. Circus Maximus is what they’re intending to say.

Danica Patrick experienced her first Bristol night race last year as she made just her fourth career Sprint Cup start. It was another terrible outing for Patrick as she was in the top-20 and on the lead lap with 66 laps remaining when her car was hit by another car and contacted the SAFER Barrier on the inside retaining wall of the frontstretch. She finished 29th, and gave another “One Lap Downica” performance.

However, one night earlier, in the NASCAR Nationwide, Danica Patrick started all the way back in 34th and finished a solid ninth.

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“I’ve liked Bristol since I went there the first time. I remember when I set foot onto that track, it was the day before, it was load-in day and I looked out there and you’re standing on the straightaway, but it sure seems like a corner,” Danica Patrick said about Bristol.

What would Danica Patrick tell young drivers coming to Sprint Cup from the Nationwide Series?

“I think that it’s always difficult as a driver to say the words, like my goal is top-20. It’s not what it needs to be at some point. While your ultimate goal is to win – and, if the opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready – you still have to set realistic goals along the way to keep yourself upbeat and to keep everybody else upbeat. That’s been something I’ve dealt with this year.”

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Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan, he also writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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