Promising start, disappointing finish to Memorial Day weekend
With Memorial Day in the books, Danica Patrick and the other 42 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series look forward to the unofficial start of summer – 400 miles at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
The FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks Sprint Cup Series race kicks off the month of June and begins the warm weather and northern swing on the schedule.
For Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), she’s hoping she can continue to improve on what was an impressive month of May. She qualified seventh at Talladega, ninth at Kansas and then a season-best fourth last week at Charlotte.
She finished a career-best seventh at Kansas, but then blew an engine while competing in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, and finished 39th.
But the emotions remain high for Patrick and the GoDaddy team as they head into June and, specifically, Dover.
The concrete mile oval’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 any driver.
A good car (and a little luck) can mean good things at Dover and Patrick is prepared to seize on that opportunity should it present itself.
But after their strong May, Patrick, crew chief Tony Gibson and the rest of the GoDaddy team are ready.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
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.”
You’ve qualified really well the last three weeks. Talk about that.
“All the cars have been good and the team has done well. At Charlotte, the car was really good. I think the big difference that came for me was in the second round. (Tony) Gibson (crew chief) made really good adjustments and anticipated the offset from run one to run two really well, and the balance was really good. I did that 20-whatever-seven, which was quickest in the second group. We have a lot to be proud of. I mean, let’s face it. This is the part of the weekend that I dreaded every time. I had to train myself to not say I hate qualifying. We were third in a round, we were first in a round and we were fourth in a round. A lot to be proud of at Stewart-Haas and for the GoDaddy car.”
How has knockout qualifying worked for you and the GoDaddy team?
“It’s definitely better. It’s obviously something that I needed to work on, but you still have to have a good car and the first top-10 was at Martinsville. We saw how I ran that day, and I was absolutely terrible that day. It’s not everything, but it definitely helps. I would venture to say that when knockout qualifying happens and we all get done with our first run, there are a heck of a lot more times that I have been in the top-15. Most of the time, when I finally get things going in knockout qualifying, then it’s like last weekend where everybody goes out again and goes faster. So, no, it’s like I said at the beginning of the year, it all evens out in the end. There are times when you find speed, and you make something happen and you get in. Then there are times that you get in on a good time and you go out and you go from being 11th overall in the first round and then you are 24th – and that sucked. So, if it’s more interesting for the fans, then that is the most important thing for our sport because we are fan-driven so much. We have to keep them entertained, for sure – keep them watching and interested. At the end of the day, it’s just racing, driving as fast as you can, and more of it.”
You had a disappointing run at Charlotte last week. Talk about that.
“We had a plan to make a big adjustment (early) that I thought would really help under yellow. We dropped a cylinder or lost power, then we got hit. Unfortunately, we had a lot of bad luck. We weren’t really as fast as we needed to be at the beginning. It’s unfortunate for the whole team. It would have been great to keep the run going that we had. I think we still showed some good things last weekend. We’re not going to forget about where we’ve been lately and about running better. We’ll be back to get them at Dover.”