This week’s Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon marks the 15thconsecutive week that Danica Patrick and the other NASCAR drivers have competed in a race.
That streak started in early April at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway just as the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament was wrapping up and just as Major League Baseball’s regular season – which reaches its All-Star break marking the ceremonial midpoint of its 162-game regular season – was just getting underway.
Fifteen consecutive weekends is quite a number for Patrick, for whom 17 races encompassed an entire season when she drove in the IZOD IndyCar Series before heading south to NASCAR. Now, 15 races is just a stretch in the season as, following Sprint Cup’s traditional mid-July off weekend, the series competes in another 17 consecutive races before crowning a champion in November.
It’s all part of the adjustment Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has made moving from IndyCar to NASCAR.
The 15th and final consecutive weekend of this season’s current run takes place at New Hampshire, the 1.058 mile track in Loudon that Patrick has competed at twice in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and once in the IndyCar Series. She finished 14th in last year’s Nationwide Series event and sixth in the 2010 IndyCar race.
While New Hampshire is still relatively new to Patrick, for her crew chief Tony Gibson, it’s a place he’s been to many times. In fact, he’s been there every time. He’s worked as a crew member in all 36 Sprint Cup races conducted at the track. He was there for the first one on July 11, 1993, working as a crew member of Jimmy Hensley’s car, which started 13th and finished 11th. The team was still technically owned by the late Alan Kulwicki but was in the process of being purchased by Geoffrey Bodine.
Gibson has been part of two victories at New Hampshire, the first coming as car chief for Jeff Gordon in August 1998, when Gordon started on the pole and led 68 laps en route to the checkered flag. Ryan Newman delivered Gibson a victory at Loudon as a crew chief in July 2011, when he, too, started on the pole and led 119 laps along the way.
While Gibson knows his driver doesn’t have the Sprint Cup experience of Gordon or Newman, he’s hoping a solid run will give the team momentum heading into the rare off week.