Danica Patrick: finding success on big Texas weekend
There’s no doubt that the eyes of the sports world will be firmly focused on Texas this weekend.
Not only does the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series head to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for round seven of its 36-race season, but this weekend the city of Dallas plays host to the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.
So, for this weekend at least, everything is bigger in Texas, particularly when it comes to live sporting events.
For Patrick, Texas could be just the place to regain some momentum as it is the racetrack where she has gained the most experience in her career.
Of all the tracks where Patrick will compete in 2014, she has the most starts at Texas, having driven in 15 major-league races – three Sprint Cup, four NASCAR Nationwide Series, and eight in the Verizon IndyCar Series. And it’s a track she’s taken a liking to in all three divisions.
In her first Sprint Cup outing at Texas in November 2012, Patrick finished a respectable 24th. The race was also her first with crew chief Tony Gibson. In her four Nationwide Series races, Patrick has three top-15 finishes, including an eighth-place effort in April 2012. In Patrick’s eight IndyCar Series starts at the 1.5-mile oval, she has five top-10 finishes, including a third-place result in June 2007 and a second-place finish in June 2010.
Already this season, Patrick has posted solid performances at two other intermediate tracks on the circuit. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, she and the No. 10 team were fast most of the weekend. She posted the fifth-fastest lap during Thursday afternoon’s four-hour test session and then was 13th-fastest in Friday practice.
During knockout-style qualifying at Las Vegas, Patrick posted the 10th-fastest lap during round one and advanced to round two, where she placed herself 22nd on the starting grid. From there, she continued to turn heads by clocking the sixth-fastest lap in Saturday morning’s practice session and the fastest 10-lap average.
Patrick rolled off 22nd in the race, fell to 30th in the early going and went a lap down, but she fought her way to a respectable 21st-place result.
Then, two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Patrick started 27th. She overcame a flat left-front tire late in the race and survived a treacherous green-white-checkered restart to score a 14th-place finish – her first top-15 of the 2014 season.
With the combination of Patrick’s experience at the Texas track and the team’s fast racecars and impressive runs on intermediate tracks earlier this season, the No. 10 team hopes that Texas benefits from the state’s “everything is bigger” reputation and that this is the weekend a top-10 finish can “Get Found.”
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Last weekend at Martinsville didn’t go exactly how you had hoped, but now you’re headed to Texas and you have had strong cars and finishes on similar tracks at Las Vegas and California. Talk about that.
“Yeah, Martinsville was disappointing. We ran so well there last year and we had high hopes for another good finish, especially since we had some momentum going our way. Unfortunately, we struggled all race long. (Tony) Gibson kept making adjustments and we hit on something about halfway through the race, but by that point we were already a couple of laps down. It was just disappointing. But, that being said, we had a good qualifying effort Friday and started the race 10th, so that was a big deal for us. Qualifying is something I know I’ve got to get better at. I’ve got to get better at getting all of it out of the car every time, so what we accomplished Friday at Martinsville was a bit of a positive reinforcement for me. Hopefully, we can continue that at Texas. Overall, we’ve had really good cars every week and have been fast. We had such strong cars at Las Vegas and at California that I’m really looking forward to getting on track with the GoDaddy Chevy at Texas.”
You have a lot of experience at Texas and you seem to really enjoy racing there. Why is that?
“I think, more than anything with Texas, it’s the fact it’s a really high-banked, fast track and those are the kinds of tracks I’ve liked the most. I feel that load in the corner and you’re able to carry so much speed through there because of that banking. I feel like it translates more to a feeling I was familiar with from Indy cars. So, I like going to Texas.”
What is your favorite memory of racing at Texas?
“The Dan Weldon/Danica Patrick boxing duo promotion coming off of (the) Milwaukee (IndyCar race in 2007). That was probably my favorite. I also just about won in 2009. It was (Ryan) Briscoe and I on the last stop. I came out in front of him but I just didn’t have the speed and he went around me. But I almost won that race. That was a good night.”
TONY GIBSON, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The GoDaddy/Get Found team had a fast car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is another 1.5-mile track, and finished 21st. Then the team scored a top-15 at Fontana. Is there anything from those two tracks and races that will transfer over to Texas this weekend?
“As far as chassis setup-wise, those tracks are really similar to what we will have this weekend in Texas. The loads are a little different but our chassis setup will be really close. It’s a different car. It’s a new car. Aero-wise, there’s no difference. I feel like the biggest thing that will be different is we have a different right-side tire than what we’ve had at Texas before, so it’s kind of an unknown as far as the tires. The one thing I worry about is the left-side tire because we had problems in California, and we’re going to be running extremely fast on another bumpy racetrack at Texas – probably faster than we were at California. The loads are going to be higher, so I worry more about the tires than I do anything else. But chassis-wise and body-wise, the setups are really, really close. I feel like having two good races under our belt, hopefully we can go there and be just another step better or at least just try to be consistent. It does help to run well on two intermediate tracks already this season because we struggled last year on those. Hopefully, this year, we can capitalize on a couple of good runs and be better going into Texas and Charlotte and places like that. Hopefully, we will have it a little more fine-tuned by then.”
You had the two solid performances at Las Vegas and California. Then last weekend, the team had a great run in qualifying and started 10th in Martinsville. Do those things help build the team’s and Danica’s confidence heading into this weekend at Texas?
“We just try to take any positive from a weekend each weekend and build on that. So, anything that you can do that shows improvement, I think, helps. Last weekend, we really thought we would race better than what we did. The track conditions were really, really off and it burnt the tires right off the car. It came down to tire management and she doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in managing tires when they burn off like that. It was a tough weekend, but it was a great weekend because we qualified really well. I hate that we didn’t get any more practice on Saturday because I think that hurt us more than others. We needed some more track time to get the balance of the car a little bit closer. But we build off of the positives during the weekend and qualifying that well was definitely a positive. Bristol was a positive – we wrecked our primary car and then came back and finished 18th. I thought that was really, really good. Fontana was a good weekend for us. Performance-wise, I think we are building confidence. She’s getting some confidence in her and hopefully we can keep doing that and each race have something good come out of the weekend that we can build on.”