'It's a place I don't have a lot of experience at'
Danica Patrick has been racing stock cars since 2010, full-time since 2012 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She’s been full-time in the Sprint Cup Series since 2013 and has plenty of experience at several of the racetracks.
Pocono (Pa.) Raceway is not one of them.
In her seven years of IndyCar experience, the series never competed there, although it does now in July. The Nationwide Series doesn’t run there, either.
So for Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart Haas Racing (SHR), her only two starts at “The Tricky Triangle” came in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series.
Not a lot of experience for Patrick at one of the more unique racetracks where the Sprint Cup Series competes.
Pocono’s triangular layout was designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward and remains unlike any other track in the world with three different corners each modeled after a different track.
Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is modeled after the legendary Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at eight degrees, is a nod to the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at six degrees, is modeled after the corners at The Milwaukee Mile.
Patrick is used to turns two and three, having raced IndyCars at Milwaukee and IndyCars and stock cars at Indianapolis. Turn one is unfamiliar as Trenton closed in 1980, two years before she was born.
While her experience is minimal at Pocono, she has a strong team behind her, including veteran crew chief Tony Gibson, who won at Pocono in June 1992 with Alan Kulwicki and in July 1998 with Jeff Gordon. He served as car chief during both events.
Gibson is hoping, with his experience and Patrick’s willingness to learn, that they can master the three-turn layout – and score a good finish at Pocono.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Overall thoughts on Pocono?
“It’s a neat place, definitely a unique track. It’s still a place I don’t have a ton of experience at. I know Tony Gibson has won there a couple of times and does a good job setting up the car. It’s just an odd place to set the car up because the corners are so different. If you are really good in turn one, then maybe two and three are a little off. Or if you’re good in three, maybe one and two are different. I will say that the straightaway is enormous. There’s a lot of distance between turns three and one.”
Describe your races at Pocono last year.
“Well, on Friday of the first weekend, it rained so I didn’t get to run (laughs). So that put us in a tight box for Saturday, having two practices and then, ‘Let’s go race.’ We were 20th or 21st and the final restart came with three laps to go, and we got shuffled back to 29th. It was pretty disappointing because we should have been much better. It was the same feeling I had in the second race. We were almost to 15th with about 50 to go and got in an accident and ended up 35th. So there was some good to the races but not the finishes we wanted. Hopefully, this week we’ll get the better finish and have a good day.”
Are you settling in for the summer stretch of races?
“I am ready for it. Pocono and Michigan are always fun and I actually really like going to New Hampshire. It’s a fun stretch of races and it’s nice that the weather is good. Hopefully we can continue to run well and continue to improve. It is a long season, but the summer stretch is always fun.”
Does it ever get tiring when fans come and young ones say they admire you and want to be like you, and even ask for advice? How do you handle that?
“I never, ever get sick of that. That’s sometimes the best part of your day, to hear a little kid say they look up to you. Or, what I get a lot of the time is their parents saying it for them because – they are a lot of times – kids get shy. Most kids get shy. Some of them are very, very open and they feel like they know you and they come and hug you and there’s that kind of perspective. I don’t know what makes them like that, but some kids are really open. But it’s a nice feeling. It makes it all feel kind of worthwhile on days that aren’t good, and to put you in the perspective that it’s just one day and that it will pass and they like you because they’ve seen you do well and that they enjoy you as a competitor. So it can definitely brighten up your day. Advice? I give the same advice to kids or adults. It’s just to find something that you love to do. I think that’s the most important thing. If you didn’t like what you’re doing, you’re not going to be very happy. So, finding something that you love to do is the most important thing. If it works out that you make a decent living at it, too, that’s a bonus.”