They say everything is bigger in Texas and that was definitely true last weekend for Danica Patrick. Texas has always been a good track for Patrick, whether in IndyCar or NASCAR. With her best finish of 4th coming at Texas just last year, high expectations were already set before her tires hit the asphalt. But Danica’s weekend started a little early when she was the guest of honor for Texas Speedway’s Turn 2 “Speed to Read” Awards on Thursday November 1st.
Accompanied by 1,500 Elementary School students, their teachers and principals, shouts of DAN-I-CA came booming through the stands. “I feel like Taylor Swift,” she said after hearing the children chanting her name. Talking about the importance of reading and dreaming big, Danica and Sonic the Hedgehog, presented the top readers of the group with trophy’s and awards. The winners, teachers and principals were also treated to an autograph session and pictures with Danica and her Sonic themed car.
“It’s great any time that you can do things with kids or do things that help communities or something outside of the norm are always things we try and do if we can make it work on a race weekend,” Patrick said.
Saturday’s Nationwide race was expected to be Danica’s best finish this season, but the final result was far from that. Starting 8th in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, several adjustments were made to the car in the first pit stop, leaving the car much to her liking. Running in the Top 10 much of the night, it looked promising, until she thought her right front tire was going down, causing her to pit sooner than planned. Looking at the tire after her team completed the pit stop, the tire was not only going down, but it was completely shredded.
Restarting 1 lap down, Patrick quickly passed cars and after green flag stops, she was back on the lead lap. Hitting a race high of fourth on lap 144, things started taking a turn for the worse. After being told to save fuel, a caution allowed her to pit with the pack for adjustments and full tank, but changing track conditions made her car tight and off balance leaving her with a 14th place finish.
“Well, this was a much better day than this,” She said after the race.
“Holy (crap) I felt like I was on ice at the end,” She told the team over the radio. “The grip level felt like it was 100 degrees and sunny out.y than this,” Patrick said after the race.
Her Crew Chief Ryan Pemberton was pleased with the result considering how their night had gone. “You guys did a nice job. There’s nothing we could do about getting a flat tire. We had all the right stuff at the end if we wouldn’t have. There’s just nothing we could do about that.”
Starting in her ninth Cup race, Sunday was bound to be another long 500 mile run. With Green Flag at midafternoon and ending under the lights, the AAA Texas 500 was bound to be yet another test for Patrick. In her first weekend with her new Cup team and Crew Chief Tony Gibson, it was a learning experience for everyone.
Tony Gibson and his team came over from Ryan Newman’s 39 team to Crew for Patrick full time next season.
Patrick, her spotter Tab Boyd, and Tony made a great trio Sunday night. Both Tab and Tony kept the radio chatter light-hearted and kept her spirits up. Danica started Sunday’s race towards the back of the field but quickly gained track position. Losing laps during green-flag stops, Patrick spent some of the first half of the race fighting her way back up. Gibson gave Danica tons of information about what was happening and why, what was going to happen next, and more throughout the race.
Patrick spent much of the night racing drivers like Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and even her Car Owner, Tony Stewart. Gibson was feeding her Stewart’s lap times along with her own, showing that she was running comparable, even faster, times than he was.
Tab Boyd is an incredible spotter, especially when it comes to his relationship with Danica. Tab spots for Danica on weekends where she pulls double duty. He keeps the radio chatter funny and light while also giving her great feedback on the cars around her. Using words like “mo-mentum,” “you’re cool,” and calling her a badass, he is never short on jokes, especially when it comes to other drivers.
Danica: “He’s such a pain in the ass to pass.”
Tab: “He’s a Bayne in the ass to pass.” (Referring to Trevor Bayne)
Danica: “I just laughed out loud in the car. That was funny.”
It is exchanges like these that make Danica and Tab such a great match.
Danica spent most of the 500 miles running in the Top 25, even reaching as high as 16th at one point. After a long batch of yellows towards the end of the race and a Green-White-Checkers finish, Danica ended the night 24th and on the lead lap making it her best finish in the No.10 GoDaddy Chevrolet.
With one last Cup race before jumping into it full time next season, she and Tony have much to figure out about each other. Danica still has a lot to learn when it comes to NASCAR but one thing is for certain, she is definitely making a lot of progress.
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