KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – With the two weeks of Charlotte complete, the competitors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now begin the summer stretch of races, the majority of which are conducted in the northern part of the country.
For Danica Patrick, it means a lot of races at tracks she is familiar with, just not in the Sprint Cup Series. Of the next eight races on the schedule, Patrick has raced at seven of them in one series or another, save for Pocono (Pa) Raceway, sight of next week’s Sprint Cup race.
Following Pocono, the series heads to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. Patrick competed at all three tracks in the IZOD IndyCar Series and drove in NASCAR Nationwide Series events at Michigan and Kentucky.
From Kentucky, the schedule heads back to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where Patrick started on the pole, led five laps and finished eighth in February’s 55th Daytona 500. The eight-race summer stretch concludes with races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – two tracks Patrick has driven in both IndyCar and Nationwide Series competition.
In seven Indianapolis 500s, Patrick scored six top-10 finishes including a third-place result in 2009 – the best finish ever for a woman in the history of the race.
The summer stretch kicks off this week with the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), started 38th and finished 28th in September 2012 in her only Sprint Cup start at the concrete mile oval.
She’s made three Nationwide Series starts at Dover and finished 16th in September 2012. Patrick started 13th and finished sixth in a September 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dover. She led three laps in the event to become the first female driver to ever lead laps in the series.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You tested at Dover a couple of weeks ago. How did that test go? “The Dover test was pretty good. We had 11 or so cars there (three from SHR and eight from other teams). I know that Stewart-Haas was really good there last year with not a lot of rubber down. And then, coming back for the race and being really bad and not feeling like they had made a lot of progress with the car, and being way out of balance. So, I think that will help pay off. Any kind of testing we can do on tracks we’re going to race on is absolutely going to help for that one, but we’re going to tracks and we’re using the right tires when we’re doing it. So, it was a good test and we made a lot of progress and we learned a lot.”
What are your thoughts about Dover? “I always like going to Dover. The track is pretty fun. I remember everyone telling me how unique and challenging Dover was prior to my first race. At the time, I didn’t have a whole lot to compare that track to. They said it was like a larger version of Bristol, but I hadn’t raced at Bristol yet, either. It’s nice to have more of a handle on what to expect heading in there now. Dover is fun. It’s fast and it can make for a really long day of racing. I think that’s part of the appeal of it – how demanding it can be. We definitely want to stay out of trouble, which is easier said than done at these types of tracks.”
This is your second Sprint Cup Series start at Dover. Do you review previous races before going to an event? “I look through notes at what the feel was from the time before. If I’ve got some in-car (video), I’ll look at that, too. That’s really all there is to do. Every weekend is its own weekend and sometimes I feel like it’s nice almost to come in a little bit fresh, too, and not have any preconceived ideas. I like to make notes from the races because there are so many that are similar, you almost can’t remember what you’re supposed to do. There are little tiny things about a track that are helpful to remember – just where the grip is and bumps and certain things. There’s general feel, like do you drive flat into the corner or do you lift early – just little things that help you get your rhythm quicker. That’s about all I do.”
Now that Charlotte is complete, the summer stretch really begins. What are your feelings about the next two months? “Last year I raced at Daytona, Darlington and Charlotte in the Sprint Cup Series and then there was a summer break before I raced at Bristol in August. So other than Dover and Daytona, I haven’t raced in the Sprint Cup Series at a lot of the tracks coming up. I’ve been to Michigan, Sonoma, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indy either in a Nationwide car or an IndyCar, or both. So while I may not have seen them in a Cup car, I’ve been to a lot of the tracks and have an idea about them. Pocono will be the only new one, but we’re testing there this week, so we’ll get some experience before coming back for the race. I think that will be beneficial. I’m looking forward to the summer stretch. We need to get better and have better results and I know Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the GoDaddy team are going to work hard, and so am I.”