KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (April 23, 2013) – It was just three weeks ago that Danica Patrick surprised many NASCAR observers with her impressive 12th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the .526-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will look to improve even further on her short-track results in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 Sprint Cup race at the .75-mile Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Patrick is no stranger to racing at Richmond, having competed in three NASCAR Nationwide Series races and five IZOD IndyCar Series races at the three-quarter-mile oval. She scored four top-10 IndyCar finishes, including sixth-place results in 2007 and 2008 and a fifth-place effort in 2009.
She has taken a liking to short-track racing and improved steadily through the last few months. In the August 2012 Sprint Cup race at the .533-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway oval, Patrick was in the top-20 and on the lead lap with 66 laps remaining when her car was hit by another car and contacted the SAFER Barrier on the inside retaining wall of the frontstretch. She finished 29th.
In the November Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, Patrick finished what was then a career-best 17th on the mile oval after running as high as 14th with less than five laps to go. She improved even more with the 12th-place finish April 7 at Martinsville.
One focus for Patrick and the Go Daddy team will be to improve their qualifying efforts. In addition to the obvious better starting spot, the better qualifying effort results in a better pit stall and better track position to start the race – both extremely critical at a short track like Richmond.
Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Patrick qualified 25th, her best effort since her pole at this year’s season-opening Daytona 500.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The Go Daddy team has really tried to focus on qualifying better each week. How is that progressing?
A lot of young girls look up to you. Do you feel you’ve inspired some of them to get into auto racing?
“Maybe just from the perspective that they would think about racing. It’s not a normal sport for a kid to try because it’s not something you go play in school, right? In school, you play basketball, volleyball, all those kinds of sports, like baseball. Racing is not one of those. So, your family has to have the means to be able to do it and then you have to have even the scope of knowledge to be able to run a car. I think it might just make people a little bit more interested and maybe they want to become racecar drivers. But what I always tell little girls or little boys is that anybody who wants to become a racecar driver has to work really hard and it has to be your passion. And if you find that it is, so be it. But if not, then follow that because I think you can make a career out of anything.”
Television ratings for NASCAR have been up for the most part this year. How much of an impact do you think you have had on those ratings?
“I always say it takes all of us out there to make an entertaining race. If it was just me out there it would be really, really boring. I understand your question. I think that, when I’m running, let’s say at Daytona, and qualifying on the pole, there are a lot of stories written and so it drums up a lot of attention and interest and pure curiosity, like, ‘How’s this going to work out? Is she going to be good? Is she going to hang on? Is she doing to drop back?’ So, that curiosity might lead to viewership. I’m flattered by that. But again, I think we’ve seen throughout the races this year that there has been a record number – or at least a new record number – of lead changes at racetracks and that’s the kind of stuff that keeps fans coming back.”