‘The Lady in Green’ Meets ‘The Lady in Black’
KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (May 9, 2012) – It’s been called the toughest of all tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. So much so that Darlington (S.C.) Raceway years ago was nicknamed “The Track Too Tough To Tame.”
Darlington is an egg-shaped oval 1.366 miles in length – the odd shape because the western portion of the oval needed a tighter radius on the turns as founder Harold Brasington promised Sherman Ramsey, who owned a farm next to the property, that he wouldn’t disturb his minnow pond when he built the track in 1949.
The odd shape also means that, to find the fast way around the track, drivers run against the outside walls in each turn, sometimes brushing up against the wall and thus earning what has affectionately become known as a “Darlington Stripe” on the right side of the car. And the black marks left on the walls by the tires rubbing up against them all race weekend have led to the track’s other nickname – “The Lady in Black.”
Saturday night, “The Lady in Green,” Danica Patrick, driver of the green No.10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, will meet “The Lady in Black” for the very first time when she competes in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 Sprint Cup race at Darlington.
Patrick, who has never been to Darlington, will also compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at the 1.366-mile oval before competing in just her second-ever Sprint Cup race the next night.
Her first Sprint Cup start came in February’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, where she finished a disappointing 38th, having completed only 138 of 202 laps after being caught in an accident not of her making on the third lap.
She’ll hope to fare better in the 367-lap race Saturday night, but she knows that just getting seat time and experience at the Sprint Cup level is most important as she continues her transition from IndyCar to NASCAR.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet:
What are your overall thoughts heading to Darlington and your second Sprint Cup Series start?
“I’m told it’s not going to be so much about the track and getting comfortable and getting up to speed or feeling good, that it’s going to be more about learning how to pass there and how that works because it’s one lane and one groove. I believe it’s high in (turns) one and two and low in (turns) three and four. Just going to two-wide in one and two can cost you a second a lap, so it’s a matter of being smart about when you’re supposed to let off and give the position up for the sake of overall time. Getting used to that is going to be the hardest thing. Other than that, it’s a new track for me, so feeling out the rhythm of the race is going to be another challenge.”
You announced in January that you will not compete in the Indianapolis 500 and, instead, compete in the Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. It’s now May. What are your thoughts on that?
“I’m sure it will be a little strange. I’m sure I’ll be paying attention – I love Indy. I’m confident it will work out in the future. But I loved the three weeks of Indy, so when they cut it down to two weeks, I was disappointed. I tried to talk everyone into going back to three weeks. But I have a feeling my plate’s going to be full, and I’ll be well-distracted with lots of NASCAR racing and flying all over the country during May and ending up in Charlotte for Memorial Day weekend. I’m excited to see how NASCAR does Memorial Day weekend. I know how it’s done in IndyCar, how to honor the day and what it really means about people serving our country. So I’m excited to see how NASCAR does it.”
You’ve been to just about every track except for Darlington. With that, what style of track have you enjoyed going to?
“I like Daytona- and Talladega-style racing. I really do. It reminds me a lot of IndyCar racing because you’re flat out, looking for air, trying to stay with the pack and trying to weave your way though. It’s like I described it in IndyCar – it’s a high-speed chess match. I’m used to it; I like it. It’s not about the speed; it’s about the style. Outside of that, I think the mile-and-a-halves are probably my favorites just because I feel like more happens and it’s a little bit more in your control where, at places like Daytona and Talladega, it’s out of your control and it’s difficult to avoid big accidents, at times. So, I prefer the mile-and-a-halves, I suppose, at this point. The really high-banked, high-gripped mile-and-a-halves have been my favorite thus far. But, then again, they’ve been the ones where I’ve done the best.”
Do you watch the Sprint Cup Series races you don’t compete in?
“I do. I watch as many as I can. Sometimes I have commitments, but I watch as many as I can because it’s good to pick up things that I see for the future.”
Can you talk about Tony Stewart since you both have experience in IndyCar racing?
“We don’t talk a lot about IndyCar and NASCAR. They’re very different worlds. I think it’s nice that I know he has the reference and can understand where I’m coming from, perhaps, with some feelings and certain ways I describe the car. But we don’t speak specifically about Indy cars because of the difference in cars. So, for me, it’s nice to have a guy like Tony, who is confident and will help me and give me answers and be honest and want to see me get better. And the IndyCar references are just nice from a background standpoint that he understands what I’m talking about.”
A lot of the attention has been on your relationship with Tony Stewart. Can you talk about working with Ryan Newman?
“For me, with Ryan, he’s been really kind to me over the years – especially the last couple of years in NASCAR. He’s commented a couple of times to me. Stopped and chatted about doing a good job out there and how’s it going. General curiosity. So I get along great with Ryan. We were actually just talking about some charity stuff, too, with dogs. I know he does a lot with animals. I share the same views as Krissie (Newman, his wife), apparently. So I think I’ll probably sit down and talk with her about that. But I really like him. I think the team, as a whole, is going to have a lot of fun.”