KANNAPOLIS, N.C., – Danica Patrick has raced on concrete surfaces many times during her career, having done so in IZOD IndyCar Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, NASCAR Nationwide Series and even NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
But she knows as well as anyone that her concrete starts in four different racing series can’t fully prepare her for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on the ultra-fast and ultra-challenging concrete mile oval at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Dover’s 24-degree banking in the turns and 9 degrees on the straightaways, and being surrounded by 42 other Sprint Cup machines each producing nearly 900 horsepower, equate to one challenging race for Patrick in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover.
Fortunately for Patrick, who drives the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, concrete has been good to her, at times.
In four IndyCar Series starts from 2005 to 2008 at 1.33-mile concrete Nashville Superspeedway oval in Lebanon, Tenn., Patrick never started or finished outside the top-10, and she scored three top-five results and two starts on the outside of the front row.
She led her first-ever laps in a stock car on the concrete surface at Dover in September 2010, holding the top spot for three circuits en route to a sixth-place finish in the Sunoco 150 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race.
And last month, at the .533-mile concrete oval at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Patrick was in the top-20 and on the lead lap with 66 laps remaining in the Irwin Tools Night Race Sprint Cup Series event before her car was hit by another car and she contacted the SAFER Barrier on the inside retaining wall of the frontstretch. She finished 29th.
That said, Patrick knows the Sprint Cup race at Dover is not like any other race she has contested on a concrete surface. But, just as it has been for her first six Sprint Cup Series starts, Patrick’s goal is to continue her education in preparation for a full-time Sprint Cup ride in 2013.
And part of that education is “Concrete 101” (a.k.a. Sunday’s AAA 400).
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet: What are your overall thoughts on Dover? “Dover is a race that’s going to be one of the tougher (Sprint) Cup races I’m going to do. I’m sure it’s going to be a difficult weekend, but the difficult weekends are what will make next year easier. Hopefully, it’s one of those tracks where it helps to run both cars (Nationwide and Sprint Cup) – they both help each other. I always like going to Dover. The track is pretty fun and, hopefully, we can make it to the end this time. 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 this time. 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 will be your first Sprint Cup Series start at Dover, but you’ve driven three stock car races there, previously. 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.”
GREG ZIPADELLI, Race Strategist of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet: Darlington, Bristol and Atlanta were pinpointed as some of the most challenging races for Danica this year. But is Dover also one of the most challenging on the schedule? “I think it will be, for sure. The good news is she’s running the Nationwide Series car there and she seems to like the place. That being said, we’ll go and attack just like every place else. We’ll try to give her a good solid racecar and be conservative on our changes and just work through the weekend, like we have. It’s kind of a crazy day because we have all of our practice on Friday and then we just come in and qualify on Saturday. I don’t think that does us any favors. If we can practice on Friday, go right into qualifying when it’s fresh in her mind and she has a good feel for how the racetrack is, that benefits us a little bit. But, we’ll do our best and go out there and have some fun.”
The AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway will mark Danica Patrick’s seventh career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and her first at the concrete mile oval. She has competed in two NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Dover and one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at the track.
In September 2010, Patrick led her first laps in a stock car at Dover when she held the top spot for three circuits en route to a sixth-place finish in the Sunoco 150 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race.
Patrick has career totals of one top-five finish, five top-10s, 55 laps led and one pole in 52 career NASCAR Nationwide Series races.
In 2012 Nationwide Series competition, Patrick has one pole (Daytona) and a best finish of eighth, which came in April at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. She led once for a race-high 20 laps last month on the road course at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal until mechanical problems caused her to go to the garage for repairs. She finished 27th, six laps down.
Patrick started 34th and finished ninth last month in the Nationwide race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway to score her second top-10 of 2012. One night later, in the Sprint Cup race, 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.
The remaining races on Patrick’s Sprint Cup Series schedule after Dover are Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (Oct. 21), Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Nov. 4) and Phoenix International Raceway (Nov. 11).
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