Danica Patrick: Daytona, part deux?
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (July 2, 2013) – Short of winning the 55th Daytona 500, Danica Patrick’s participation in February’s Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway was nearly flawless.
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 books with her eighth-place finish, earning the highest finishing position ever earned 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 – becoming 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.
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.
She returned to the 2.5-mile oval in April to take part in a Goodyear tire test and now returns for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola. She’ll do so with a bit of a different look on the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as the car will be its traditional green, but with touches of red, white and blue, along with the logo of “Start with .US” on the hood and rear decklid.
The country code domain for the United States of America is .US and, since 2001, Neustar has been providing domain name registry services, critical infrastructure services and policy expertise for .US on behalf of the United States Department of Commerce. GoDaddy has partnered with Neustar for several years on offering domain names that end in .US.
Guided by her crew chief, Tony Gibson, a Daytona Beach native, Patrick is hoping she can continue to make history, this time by going all the way to victory lane.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Overall thoughts heading back to Daytona?
Looking back on the Daytona 500, do you wish you had a better plan at the end of the event to try and make a move for the win?
“I was disappointed at the end of the race that I just didn’t have a better grasp as to what I needed to do to shoot for a better finish than where I was. Although, if they had just thrown that yellow, you know? Third. But you have to finish the race, I understand. That’s good for the sport when we finish under green. It makes it exciting. It really helped teach me, I feel, what happens at the end of the race and how to set them up. (Dale Earnhardt) Junior is really good at those big speedway races and knowing how to set things up. But, I just felt like I was just frustrated that I didn’t have a better plan. Tony (Stewart) said to me, ‘I really feel like you had more to lose in your position than you had to gain by trying something, so I think that you did the right thing.’ That made me feel better – a little bit. Was I still mad that I went from third to eighth on the lap? No, I was still disappointed in it. But to have somebody like Tony Stewart say something to me like that was very kind, and it put it in perspective. Jimmie (Johnson) did a nice job. We had a little conversation, and he told me I did a nice job, too. And I said I had wished I had a better plan but, ‘Thank you and I have a lot to learn.’ He said that in the two wins he had, he didn’t have a plan, and sometimes you just have to take it on the fly and work with what happens in the moment. He very kindly, later that day, said he’d seen the end of the race and said, in his opinion, the only thing I could have done was back up to Junior when he backed up, but as far as what happened on the back straight when Junior went low, in his opinion, he thought I did the right thing. So, to have somebody like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson tell me that on some level I made good decisions out there at the very end, that was a really nice thing for them to say. It makes me feel a little bit better. I still feel like I want to have a better plan in the future but, in that moment, I had made some good decisions. So, it was appreciated.”
You’re bringing a different car to Daytona than what you raced in February. Talk about that.
“Well, we lost that poor car at Talladega, so we are going back with our backup, which is a really good car, anyway. We tested with it at the beginning of the year and I expect it to go in a similar fashion. I think we will still be pretty fast. Will we qualify on the pole and run in the top-three or five all day? I don’t know, maybe. The heat always changes things a little bit, but it’s a different car, and it’s going to be a different Hendrick engine. All that stuff just leads to a slightly different weekend. But I expect it to be somewhat similar, at least from a good standpoint in my head.”
TONY GIBSON, Crew chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing; Daytona Beach native:
You’re from Daytona Beach, originally, and you were part of history in February. Talk about that.
“Well, it was obviously extremely gratifying to go down there and run well. To go to your hometown, where I grew up, to be in front of all your friends and family, and to go there and to do something that is pretty amazing, to make history, to just be a part of that is incredible. It was something that obviously will never be done again, and I feel real fortunate to be a part of that. I’ve got to thank Go Daddy, Danica and Stewart-Haas Racing and all my guys for sticking through the testing and the building of cars and going and doing all the things it takes to go down there and put those two laps together and make history. It was pretty crazy, too, with all the media and all the hype going into it, and the pressure of actually testing well and going down there and repeating and making it happen, it was a huge relief. But it was also very gratifying and ranks up there as probably one of the greatest things I’ve accomplished in my career. Goals for this July race are the same as they were in February when we went to Daytona. We want to go down there and we want to make a statement. We want to try to sit on the pole again, obviously, and this time finish a few spots further up. We felt like we had a shot to win it, ran in the top-three or four all day and had a fast car, and it came down to the last lap and kind of got snookered a little bit there at the end. But we felt like we were definitely in contention to win it, so we’re going back there with the same mindset, to try to be the fastest car in qualifying and try to close the deal at the end of this thing.”
Going to Daytona and being from there, do you feel like it’s an advantage, of sorts?
“Well, I think it does. I think, for me, I have a lot of family down there, a lot of friends, and a lot of history at that place. And I think it’s kind of like going and playing football or baseball or basketball in your hometown. You always feel like you’ve got that little – you’ve got the eighth man there, and it’s a little bit of a pump-up and a boost, and knowing that your friends and family are there and rooting for you. Yeah, I think it’s different, and I think it’s a plus.”