Danica Patrick: last race before ‘holiday’
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (July 10, 2013) – This week’s Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon marks the 15th consecutive week that Danica Patrick and the other NASCAR drivers have competed in a race.
That streak started in early April at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway just as the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament was wrapping up and just as Major League Baseball’s regular season – which reaches its All-Star break marking the ceremonial midpoint of its 162-game regular season – was just getting underway.
Fifteen consecutive weekends is quite a number for Patrick, for whom 17 races encompassed an entire season when she drove in the IZOD IndyCar Series before heading south to NASCAR. Now, 15 races is just a stretch in the season as, following Sprint Cup’s traditional mid-July off weekend, the series competes in another 17 consecutive races before crowning a champion in November.
It’s all part of the adjustment Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has made moving from IndyCar to NASCAR.
While New Hampshire is still relatively new to Patrick, for her crew chief Tony Gibson, it’s a place he’s been to many times. In fact, he’s been there every time. He’s worked as a crew member in all 36 Sprint Cup races conducted at the track. He was there for the first one on July 11, 1993, working as a crew member of Jimmy Hensley’s car, which started 13th and finished 11th. The team was still technically owned by the late Alan Kulwicki but was in the process of being purchased by Geoffrey Bodine.
Gibson has been part of two victories at New Hampshire, the first coming as car chief for Jeff Gordon in August 1998, when Gordon started on the pole and led 68 laps en route to the checkered flag. Ryan Newman delivered Gibson a victory at Loudon as a crew chief in July 2011, when he, too, started on the pole and led 119 laps along the way.
While Gibson knows his driver doesn’t have the Sprint Cup experience of Gordon or Newman, he’s hoping a solid run will give the team momentum heading into the rare off week.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Overall thoughts heading to New Hampshire?
“We had a good test at New Hampshire last month. It’s obviously helpful to get track time, especially at a place I’ve never been in a Cup car. It’s a challenging place, for sure, but I’m happy we got some extra track time there and hopefully we can have a good run with the GoDaddy Chevy.”
Restarts have been a topic of conversation recently. Can you talk about how you’ve improved on restarts and how they might compare with IndyCar?
You’ve finished on the lead lap in five consecutive races and scored two top-15 finishes in the last four races. The GoDaddy team talked about small steps at the beginning of the year. Do you feel like you’re making progress?
“Yeah, I mean, it is getting better. Do I wish it would get better faster? For sure. I mean, everybody who is not running in the top-10 every weekend wishes it would get better faster. It’s small steps, and part of it is being a rookie and learning. Part of it is just making changes and making the car better or making things better internally so that you can go faster. Faster cars, all that kind of stuff, so there is a lot more that plays into it than just getting experience. Through getting experience on the track I’m also getting experience and understanding how a team works and giving my input on how I think it could get better.”
TONY GIBSON, Crew chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing; Daytona Beach native:
The GoDaddy team tested at New Hampshire June 25 and 26. How will that help the team as you return for the race weekend?
“The test went really good. The first day was her kind of learning the track and learning the Cup car. We struggled a little bit for speed on the first day. The second day, she got up to speed pretty good and was only a tenth or a couple tenths off the fast guys, so we felt better about it and she felt much more comfortable. It ended up pretty good. We’ll go back in qualifying trim since we did test there. Hopefully, we’ll be able to just work on qualifying and get a good starting spot.”
The team finished 12th in April at Martinsville, another flat track, but one that is only a half-mile. Are there any similarities that will carry over to the 1.058-mile track at Loudon?
“It’s the same type of rhythm. There’s a lot of straight-line braking and trying to roll the center. The forward drive is not as critical as at Martinsville as the rolling speed is a lot faster. But, a lot of characteristics of the track are the same, just a little bit bigger, obviously. It’s the same style of driving to get around there.”
You were working at the first Sprint Cup Series race at Loudon in July 1993 and have been to every race conducted there. Talk about your first race there and what you remember.
“I was there with Jimmy Hensley as the driver and Geoff Bodine was in the process of buying the team since Alan (Kulwicki) had been killed earlier in the year. It was a nice little racetrack. I’ve always loved Martinsville and it was real similar to that. I thought it was a really cool, really neat racetrack. I’ve been fortunate to run really well there and been with some great drivers. It’s probably one of my better tracks because it kind of fits my style of set-up stuff. It’s a really cool track and I loved it the first time I saw it. I’m looking forward to going back there and I’m glad we race there twice.”