INDIANAPOLIS -- With Danica Patrick in North Carolina racing stock cars, the Indianapolis 500 will go off on Sunday without an American woman in the field for the first time since 1999.
That's just one of the problems facing her former series, but it's not really her problem.
Patrick has moved on to NASCAR, and can't worry about what she left behind.
"I was ready to leave IndyCar. I wanted to be here," she said from Charlotte Motor Speedway, where she'll race in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600.
"When you are not missing something, longing for something, you don't really think about it that much. It's like that girlfriend you didn't want to have anymore. You don't think about her anymore. Or ex-husband. You just don't. Indy, I have lots of great memories from there and probably the part of me that doesn't feel quite as longing for it is that there is still a chance that I could do it again. It's not gone."
It makes for a strange situation this weekend regarding Patrick.
She's not in Indianapolis for the first time in seven years, but she's still been a topic of conversation at various points since the track opened May 9.
James Hinchcliffe, her replacement in the Go Daddy car, flirted with the pole and will start second in Sunday's race. It's been a breakthrough month for Hinchcliffe, who is started to build his own brand and establish his identity as both a colorful character and a skilled driver.
It had been hard in IndyCar for drivers to emerge from Patrick's shadow as she dominated the media spotlight. It exploded in 2005, when she finished fourth in her Indy debut and actual winner Dan Wheldon felt compelled to have a T-shirt made that said "Actually 'Won' The Indy 500" to poke fun at the attention Patrick was receiving.
The series has struggled to develop stars since and her departure creates the overdue opportunity.
* KESELOWSKI STARTS BIG WEEKEND WITH WIN FOR PENSKE: At Concord, N.C., Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, leading the final 67 laps to give Penske Racing a winning start on auto racing's biggest weekend.
Keselowski raced to his first Nationwide victory of the year. He'll try to double up in Sprint Cup's longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night. In between comes the Indy 500, a race that owner Roger Penske's cars have won 15 times. Penske driver Ryan Briscoe will start from the pole there Sunday.
Keselowski led the way as Sprint Cup drivers took the top four spots. Denny Hamlin was second, followed by Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, last year's Coca-Cola 600 champion.
Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had driveshaft problems and finished 26th.
* SCHUMACHER SETS FASTEST TIME; WEBBER TAKES POLE: At Monaco, veteran Michael Schumacher posted the fastest time in an action-packed qualifying session at the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday, but his previous grid penalty means Mark Webber's Red Bull will start Sunday's race in pole position.
Webber beat Nico Rosberg's time on his final lap, only for the 43-year-old Schumacher to surpass Webber's effort just moments later.
But the grid penalty Schumacher got at the Spanish Grand Prix means he starts from sixth on the grid on Sunday. The German has yet to earn a pole position since coming out of retirement last season.
Rosberg starts second and looks for his second victory of the season after winning the Chinese GP.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton starts third, but teammate Jenson Button failed to make the final qualifying session for the second straight race.