KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Oct. 16, 2013) – Danica Patrick freely admits she enjoys the style of racing that takes place at restrictor-plate tracks like Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Patrick is hoping to replicate her success from the season-opening Daytona 500.
She was the fastest during the first practice of the year Feb. 16, then backed that up by winning the pole for the Daytona 500 one day later to become the first woman ever to claim the top spot for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. She stayed out of trouble for the remainder of Speedweeks and ran in the top-three for much of the Daytona 500 before dropping from third to eighth on the final lap.
She rewrote some of the NASCAR record book en route to her eighth-place finish, which is the highest finishing position ever by a woman in the “Great American Race.”
In addition to her history-making pole run and finish in the Daytona 500, Patrick also led five laps – 90 to 91 and 127 to 129 – to become the first female to lead NASCAR’s most prestigious race and the first woman to lead Sprint Cup Series laps under green. Janet Guthrie led five laps under caution in 1977 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.
By leading laps in the Daytona 500, Patrick joined an elite club of only 13 drivers to have led both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. The other drivers to accomplish the feat are A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Bobby Allison, Jim Hurtubise, Johnny Rutherford, Tim Richmond, John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Stewart. Of those 13 drivers, only Patrick, Foyt, Andretti, Gordon, Montoya and Stewart have led at least five laps in each race.
Patrick’s eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500, coupled with her six top-10 finishes in the Indianapolis 500, make her one of only 15 drivers to have top-10 results in each race. The other drivers are Foyt, Montoya, Gordon, Rutherford, Stewart, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Johns, Cale Yarborough, Dan Gurney, Donnie Allison, Jerry Grant, Paul Goldsmith and Tom Sneva.
One thing that should make Patrick quite happy this weekend is that she’ll be driving Chassis 10-758, the same car she used for the Daytona 500. She also used the car in the May race at Talladega but finished just 28th after being involved in a multi-car accident late in the race. Since then, the car has been repaired and tested in the wind tunnel.
And Patrick is hoping that car will help her make history on Sunday.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
A lot of drivers don’t look forward to Talladega. Are you looking forward to racing there?
“The reason they don’t look forward to it is exactly why I do, because someone like me has more of a shot there, just like everybody else. So, they’re in the Chase and have run really well and been fast all year. So, when we get on more traditional tracks, that’s where they’re going to fall into place more often than not. But with superspeedways, it’s a toss-up what’s going to happen. So, that’s why it’s fun for me because somebody like me has a chance. On top of that, Stewart-Haas superspeedway cars are really good. Hopefully it will be one of the good days at the end of the year.”
Are you more ready to win a race on a superspeedway than you were at the beginning of the year?
“I feel more comfortable. I felt really comfortable at Daytona, in general, but I think I’m realizing how important it is throughout the race to try things and practice taking runs and things like that and being a little bit more brave without worrying about what happens as a result, And knowing that, as long as you don’t lose the draft, you can be set up for the end of the race. I’ve lost the draft and that’s not good, either. But I was ready at the beginning of the year. I think, as a racecar driver, when you get to this level, you’re ready for anything that comes at you. But as I said at the beginning of the season coming from Daytona, you have to at least know what your car can do to get a run and get by somebody. I’m more apt to practice that now in practice and in the race.”
You’ve always liked going to Talladega. Why is that?
“The fans really make that place. The campgrounds – all that stuff makes it one big party. You see how much fun the fans are having and that makes it fun for us as drivers. It’s just a unique place. The sheer size of the facility is amazing. I liked it from the first time I first went there and, hopefully, we can have a good run and a good finish.”