Danica Patrick looks during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series… (Patrick Smith / Getty Images )
As NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff opens Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, Danica Patrick plans to make her sixth start of the season in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series.
Patrick, the former IndyCar driver, is racing full-time in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series this year and is making 10 starts at the Cup level in preparation of moving up to the Cup series in 2013.
In each of her first five Cup races this year, Patrick has finished 29th or lower in the 43-car field.
But Patrick and her Cup team, Stewart-Haas Racing, repeatedly have said her Cup races this year are less about her finishes and more about Patrick gaining experience at the Cup level.
The race at Chicagoland, a 1.5-mile oval in Joliet, will mark the first time Patrick has driven a Cup race where she previously had competed in the Izod IndyCar Series.
Patrick, who grew up in Roscoe, Ill., also has driven in three Nationwide races at Chicagoland, with her best finish a 10th last year.
Reigning champion Tony Stewart is the defending winner of the Cup race at Chicagoland, and he's again among the 12 drivers vying for the championship in the 10-race Chase.
The 12 drivers' points were reset at 2,000 to start the Chase, with an additional three points awarded to the top 10 drivers in points for each race they've won so far this season.
Denny Hamlin, with a series high four wins, is the top-seeded driver with 2,012 points. He's followed by Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, who each had three wins and start with 2,009 points.
Tom Brady isn't sweating over a possible broken nose
Robert Griffin III, Chris Paul: Who's your favorite '3'? [Poll]
Jim Mora comments on UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's injured ankle