KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (May 21, 2013) – Racing on Memorial Day weekend is nothing new for Danica Patrick as she’s done it at the professional level for nine years. But for 2013, just as it was in 2012, the car, location, track length and distance will be a bit different than what she became accustomed to from 2005 to 2011.
In those seven years, Patrick competed in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And nowhere did Patrick perform better than in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” She burst onto the scene at Indy in May 2005, when she stunned the world by leading three times for 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first “500” – becoming the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the historic race.
She set numerous records during her Indianapolis 500 debut and set the tone early when she posted the fastest lap on the opening day of practice. She went on to set the fastest practice lap five times throughout the month – more than any other driver – including Pole Day and Carburetion Day.
Patrick’s practice lap of 229.880 mph on Pole Day was the fastest of any driver during the month and the fastest turned by any woman in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During her qualification attempt, Patrick made an impressive save as her car bobbled in turn one on her first lap, earning her rave reviews for her car control by longtime Speedway observers. She ended up qualifying fourth, the best-ever starting position for a woman in the race.
On race day, with 11 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, Patrick blew past leader Dan Wheldon and held the point until lap 194, when she was forced to slow down in order to conserve fuel to make it to the finish. Her efforts earned her Rookie of the Year honors.
Patrick scored six top-10 finishes in seven starts at Indianapolis and qualified 10th or better five times. Her third-place result in 2009 is the best finish ever for a woman in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
For the second consecutive year, however, Memorial Day weekend will be different for Patrick, as she’ll watch the start of the Indianapolis 500 on television from her motorhome in the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway infield as she prepares to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
The driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will compete in a race that is 100 miles longer than the Indianapolis 500, starts six hours later than the “500” and takes place on a 1.5-mile high-banked oval rather than a 2.5-mile nearly flat rectangle.
She started 40th and finished 30th in the 2012 Coca-Cola 600, but is hoping extended track time at Charlotte in 2013 will bring a better finish. The GoDaddy team tested for two-days at Charlotte in January as part of a NASCAR open test and then completed 130 laps in race conditions last week between the 40-lap Sprint Showdown and 90-lap Sprint All-Star race, two non-points races at the 1.5-mile oval.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Will you be watching the Indianapolis 500 this Sunday before the Coca-Cola 600?
“I will watch it. I think we are all curious. We’re all in racing and we all watch racing. I think that’s a common thread and it always will be there, especially with the Indy 500 being such a cool and old, historic race. We’ll all be paying attention. Last year, they put on a great show.”
Stewart-Haas Racing tested at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last week. Talk about that.
“The Dover test was pretty good. We had 11 or so cars there (three from SHR and eight from other teams). I know that Stewart-Haas was really good there last year with not a lot of rubber down. And then, coming back for the race and being really bad and not feeling like they had made a lot of progress with the car, and being way out of balance. So, I think that will help pay off. Any kind of testing we can do on tracks we’re going to race on is absolutely going to help for that one, but we’re going to tracks and we’re using the right tires when we’re doing it. So, it was a good test and we made a lot of progress and we learned a lot.”
You have a lot of experience at Charlotte, especially in 2013. Do you feel more comfortable there than perhaps other places?
“Yeah, and I always go back to it. It’s really dependent on the car. I mean, essentially, I had better results in my Cup races last year than I have had this year other than Martinsville and Daytona. So we have had a couple of really good highs, but the rest of them have been not so good at all. So I don’t think I unlearned things from last year, it’s just a matter of getting the car to a place where it does what we all want it to do as drivers on the team. So I feel comfortable, yes. There is a lot of stuff I don’t worry so much about and I can just get in the car and go. But things I am more familiar with are looking at a tire sheet, or understanding what happens to a car in the corner and being able to translate to Tony Gibson (crew chief). But it really all comes to being comfortable with the car that you have underneath you to be able to go do the job you need to do.”
Stewart-Haas Racing has struggled thus far this season. How tough is that for the drivers?
“Well, I feel like we all have the same feeling about the car and we all have a similar opinion of what the car is doing and, more importantly, what it’s not doing. And when that happens, it’s time to go to work to figure out how to get that out of the car. And I feel like once we do, we are going to be better for the struggles we have had. But we do need to figure those out and I think we are all in agreement that we need to make a lot of progress, and I feel like sometimes that is half the battle.”