KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Since leaving Texas Motor Speedway after Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the 1.5-mile oval, Danica Patrick has been a bit of a jet-setter.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing, spent Monday of this week in Los Angeles shooting a Go Daddy commercial with IZOD IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe.
After the shoot with Hinchcliffe, who is also sponsored by Go Daddy, Patrick boarded a plane and headed to Daytona Beach, Fla., to participate in a two-day Goodyear tire test at Daytona International Speedway. The test was conducted Tuesday afternoon and evening, as well as all day Wednesday, in preparation for the July 6 Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola Sprint Cup race at the 2.5-mile oval.
From Daytona, Patrick will fly back westward to Kansas City, Kan., for Sunday’s STP 400 Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.
While Patrick hit three times zones in four days, each stop on her tour of the United States brought her to a special spot in her racing career.
The Los Angeles area is home to the Long Beach Grand Prix, where 11 years ago Patrick started on the pole and won the professional portion of the Toyota Pro-Celebrity race.
Patrick’s trek to Daytona was her first since her historic Speedweeks in February when she started on the pole and finished eighth in the 55th Daytona 500. She set numerous records, including the distinction of becoming the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole, and her eighth-place result was the highest finishing position ever for a woman in the “Great American Race.”
She led laps 90 to 91 under caution to become the first female to lead NASCAR’s most prestigious race. She also led laps 127 to 129 under green to become the first woman to lead a NASCAR race under green. Janet Guthrie led five laps under yellow in 1977 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.
As for Kansas, Patrick scored her first career IndyCar Series pole at the 1.5-mile oval in July 2005. She has three top-10 results in IndyCar Series competition at Kansas and finished in the top-15 in each of her two Nationwide Series starts at the track in 2011 and 2012.
It’s been a busy week for Patrick, but also a trip that’s taken her a bit down memory lane. And she’s hoping to create even more memories and history Sunday.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How much more educated are you about driving stock cars than when you first started? “A lot. I remember driving the car for the first time and I knew I liked it. The first time I pulled out of the pits, I knew I was having fun. I knew I wasn’t comfortable enough to even look at my gauges or my rear-view mirror. We were at Orlando (Walt Disney World Speedway) and I was white-knuckling it and I didn’t feel like I had time to look in my rear-view mirror to see what was going on. Now, going to a little place like Martinsville, you’re looking around and relaxing your leg and that’s much smaller than a place like Daytona. The comfort level has come along and I’m definitely getting educated on the car and the things that happen. I think I’m starting to speak the language better so that Tony (Gibson, crew chief) can understand much better what the car is doing. Also, just feeling the car and identifying the issues much better. I’m going to use an expression – I’m 10 times smarter than when I started, but I still have so much further to go.”
What is the difference between running 10 Sprint Cup races last year and running in a full Sprint Cup schedule this year? “I mean, it just ends up feeling more comfortable. More comfortable with the car, more comfortable with everything that has to do with the Cup Series. I am adjusting to more work, though. There is a lot more going on. You basically have over a month’s worth of extra work just because you are at the track one day. Then there is lots of testing but, for me as a rookie drive in the Cup Series, that is a great thing. Definitely keeping me a lot more busy, but I have a really good relationship with the Go Daddy crew. We have a lot of fun and I’m really happy to be working with this group.”
Talk about the Goodyear tire test you participated in at Daytona? “We’re tried out some of the green compounds for them and some combinations to see what works best and if there are any differences between the normal control tire and some of the others. We did single-car runs Tuesday night to get a speed reference for them and a balance, and then took them into Wednesday to do race runs to see if there’s any fall-off or any different feeling on the track that doesn’t happen until you get in a pack.”