KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Aug. 14, 2013) – There is no replacement for experience.
Given that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are limited to just four two-day tests per year at tracks where the Series competes, the more practice, qualifying and race experience drivers can get, the more knowledgeable they become.
Especially the rookies.
With the second half of the Sprint Cup Series season in full swing, rookies like Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), are seeing tracks for the second time this season. And knowledge gained from the first race of 2013 can pay off in the second race.
Patrick and crew chief Tony Gibson hope the same holds true for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The GoDaddy team posted a respectable 13th-place result in the first race at Michigan and hope to build upon that for an even better finish in round two at the 2-mile D-shaped oval.
Prior to their trip to Michigan, Patrick, Gibson and the rest of the No. 10 team will participate in a two-day test at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn., as the quest for speed and better results continues.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Thoughts on Michigan?
“I think it’s a momentum track and I feel like I come from a background of carrying a lot of momentum and using a lot of throttle. Being smooth and hopefully that is something that can help me at Michigan. At the end of the day it has to handle well. It has to feel good. It has to be a fast car. Here at this Cup level, it’s very competitive and being a little off is being a lot off. I think my strength of carrying momentum is something I’m used to doing.”
Talk about your race at Michigan in June.
“I think we caught some breaks. Yellows definitely helped us be able to get track position as far as closing up the gaps and being able to pit a few times. We tried to take right-side (tires) and get track position early on. It just didn’t go well, and we just hadn’t gotten ourselves to a good place with the car that I could carry the speed I needed to run with the (pack). It didn’t work out so well. We worked on it and got it better. At the end of the race, the last run was the best run, I felt, as far as the balance of the car, which I was surprised about because we had fallen off a little bit at the end of the run before. We had only taken right-side tires again for a second time. It was nice to just get a decent finish for the team and for GoDaddy.”
Does it help going back to a track a second and third time?
“Of course. Just having some experience to draw upon, especially with the Gen-6 car, is huge. So many of the drivers you race against have 20 or 30 starts at these tracks, so to have any experience to draw upon is big for me or for any rookie. I think at Pocono, while the result doesn’t show it because of the accident, we were better there than we were in the spring. And that’s what you want when you go back to these places a second, third and fourth time. You want to get better and hopefully the results ultimately show that.”
You’ve been asked this several times, but do you feel a responsibility to little girls who watch you race?
“I think it starts off as you just race. I think I’m kind of getting a little bit older now and recognizing how honored I am to be in a position to be looked up to and to have them want to grow up to be like me, or to just purely cheer for me. There are a lot of choices out there. There are a lot of different sports to look at. I do what I can to kind of nurture that or take care of it and spend time with kids. If I’m ever running about and don’t have a lot of time, but I have a little bit I always try and make sure I pick out the kids and take time for them. I do feel some sort of responsibility to be someone they want to look up to and a good role model for them. Mostly just not break their heart. I feel like one of the hardest things when you are young is you have this idea of your idols or your role models and it’s so high. It’s hard to not disappoint because they have built you up so much. I do my best to just not let them down and, if I have a second, I at least say hello or wave.
“There was a little girl at the PGA Championship last Thursday. She wasn’t little, she was maybe 10 (years old) and her dad was telling her who I was as I was walking by. I could hear it all happening – you know, it’s right behind me. He had said, ‘Hello,’ and so as I kind of turned off to walk another way, I looked over just to wave at her. It would be easy enough for me to just keep walking and they didn’t say anything to me. They didn’t try and say hello again or take a picture or anything, but I could tell she figured out who I was and she thought that was cool. So I just turned around to wave at her. She will have that story, now, as opposed to me walking away. Just little stuff like that.”