Joe Jennings, NASCAR Correspondent
Over a seven-year period, Danica Patrick has taken thousands of fast laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an IZOD IndyCar Series open-wheel racer, but she has not taken any laps in a stock car until today. And today’s laps were only promotional in nature, as part of the build-up for the Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on July 28 when the series makes its debut on the iconic oval.
In preparation for the inaugural Nationwide race at the famed track, Patrick popped into Indianapolis on Tuesday to give national TV personality Katie Couric a fast-paced tour of the track and the grounds. Couric hopped into the passenger seat of Patrick’s GoDaddy.com/NASCAR Unites “An American Salute” Chevrolet and got the thrill of her life from the diminutive racing star.
I was very, very, very, very, very, very quiet.
“It feels really good to be at the track,” Patrick said. “I enjoyed the laps that I made out there. I really, really enjoyed coming out of Turn 4 and coming down the front straightaway and seeing everything again.”
Couric was a bit taken back by the experience. “I was very, very, very, very, very, very quiet,” the television personality said. “I was nervous at first, but I had a lot of fun. I am a huge fan of Danica’s and have watched her career for many years, and it was fun for me to get to spend some time with her and learn a little more about what makes her tick and about some of the choices she’s made and things she’s done in her life. I’m very impressed.”
Couric intends to air footage of her thrilling experience on her new syndicated daytime talk show, “Katie,” when it rolls out in September. Disney-ABC Domestic Television is producing the new program.
A year ago Patrick finished 10th in the Indianapolis 500, one of her six top-10 results in seven starts. Seven years ago, she made history when she finished fourth in the 500 after a spectacular run in her rookie appearance.
For the 100th anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500, Patrick qualified at a speed of 224.861 miles per hour, but when NASCAR comes to town the speeds for Patrick and her stock-car foes will be much slower.
As a speed comparison, David Ragan took the pole for the 2011 Brickyard 400 with a run of 182.994 mph, some 42 miles per hour slower than that attained by Patrick a year ago while driving the Team GoDaddy Honda fielded by Andretti Autosports.
Patrick along with four-dozen or more Nationwide competitors will perform at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month and the flashy driver is eagerly awaiting the new experience.
The Nationwide Series has never raced at IMS, so everyone will be getting their feet wet at the same time. And even though Patrick is not leading in points or among the front-runners so far in 2012, she will be the crowd favorite when the NASCAR contingent fires up its engines at the end of the month.