The eyes of Texas are upon Danica Patrick

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In her four Nationwide Series races, Patrick has three top-15 finishes, including an eighth place result in April 2012.

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Of all the tracks Danica Patrick has competed at, she is most associated with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

In seven Indianapolis 500 starts, Patrick finished in the top-10 six times, including a third-place result in 2009, the best finish ever for a woman in the historic race.

Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

At Daytona, Patrick won the pole for the February 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series race and then, one year later, became the first woman ever to win a Sprint Cup pole by taking the top spot for the 55th Daytona 500.

She went on to finish eighth in the Daytona 500, the best result ever for a woman in the history of the race.

But while Indianapolis and Daytona have provided plenty of good memories for Patrick, it’s Texas Motor Speedway that has provided the most experience.

Of all the tracks where Patrick will compete in 2013, she has the most starts at Texas, having driven in 13 major-league races – one Sprint Cup, four Nationwide Series, and eight in the IZOD IndyCar Series. And it’s a track she’s taken a liking to in all three divisions.

In last November’s Sprint Cup race at Texas, Patrick started 32nd and finished 24th. It was, at the time, her best career Sprint Cup finish, and it came in her first race with Tony Gibson as her crew chief.

In her four Nationwide Series races, Patrick has three top-15 finishes, including an eighth place result 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 second-place finish in June 2010.

Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), enters Texas with a good deal of confidence after a solid run in her first race of any kind Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

After starting last due to an engine change, then spinning early and going two laps down, Patrick rallied for an incredible 12th-place finish at the .526-mile oval.

Patrick’s top-12 at Martinsville was impressive when considering where other drivers finished in their first races at the .526-mile paperclip – most notably her team owner Tony Stewart, who finished 20th in his first Martinsville start in 1999. Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished 35th in his Martinsville debut in 2002.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace finished 15th and Dale Jarrett finished 14th, both in 1984. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 26th in 2000. Kyle Busch finished 39th in 2005. Matt Kenseth finished 21st and Kurt Busch finished 37th, also in 2000. Fred Lorenzen finished 24th 1956.

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

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 kind 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.”

You had a tremendous drive at Martinsville. Talk about that. “Well, never being at Martinsville before, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that it was going to be a little bit crazy. The bumping and banging sure gets going. I tried to guard the inside right there at the end and then (Brian) Vickers gave me a bump and I get it.

I was trying to defend and hold my position. We still came away with a 12th-place finish. It was good to do that for GoDaddy, and obviously the Hendrick Engine was very strong. I felt like I made a lot of passes. I feel like I just passed all day. But I’m sure a lot of people do that on a short track.

It was a nice day for us. It was nice to have a good weekend. We’ve had quite a few bad ones since Daytona. So, we’ll take this and get rolling into the summer because we don’t have a break until July.”

TONY GIBSON, Crew chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Did you ever in your wildest dreams think Danica could finish 12th in her first trip to Martinsville? “Nah, I’ve never thought that. I figured if we could finish top-25 and be a couple of laps down, it would be a miracle. I never dreamed this.

I knew after Saturday and Friday that we had a good car. I knew she was capable of doing it, as far as speed and driving. To be able to go through all that beating and banging and survive and finish 12th, she did a great job.”

How important was the test prior to Martinsville at “Little Rock” in Rockingham, N.C.? “Going to Little Rock was obviously huge. Going there and just kind of getting in that mode of braking and working on a couple of things setup-wise to help her. Martinsville is one of those places where, if you can road race, you’re going to get around there pretty good.

Obviously, she’s a pretty good road racer, so having that straight-line braking mentality and finesse of not just overdriving the car, that helped her the most going into there. She definitely did a really, really nice job all day. She got aggressive when she needed to at the end.”

How pleased were you to see her get aggressive at the end? “It was great to see that. I was worried about that. I knew that, with 30 to go, the restarts were going to get more and more aggressive, and that’s why I told her it’s not going to get any easier. I was really, really happy to see how aggressive she got. You know, being able to be on the defense.

They would bump her and she wouldn’t get flustered and shaken up. I was really, really impressed with that. That was the biggest thing I was nervous about – how she would do in a situation like that. It will help her gain some confidence. Obviously, that was the worst-case scenario of where we go for a restart.

To come out of there proving she can do it – being more aggressive on the restarts and doing what these guys are doing – will hopefully build some confidence that will help her down the road.”

How much confidence does it give the GoDaddy team heading into Texas? “It’s big. We ran really good there with her last year toward the end, and that was our first race with her. We had some confidence out of there and into Phoenix.

So it’s awesome to come out of Martinsville with some confidence and a little momentum going into Texas. And we’re coming up on some tracks where I think we can run really good at. It’s huge right now for us.”

Stewart-Haas Racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
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Tags chevrolet, nascar-cup, patrick, texas 500