The Danistar had her best race since Daytona this past weekend at Fontana and headed into the off weekend on a high note but finishing 26th in the Auto Club 400 was probably not the highlight of Danica Patrick’s weekend.
Saturday night, Patrick and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr made the trip to Los Angeles to attend the Kid’s Choice Awards. Patrick was up for the Favorite Female Athlete Award against tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and Olympic Gymnast Gaby Douglas. Patrick won the award two previous times and walked away with the Neon Orange Nickelodeon Blimp again on Saturday.
“This is a huge award for me,” Patrick said on stage. “Kids mean so much. When I meet you, when I see you at the racetrack and you cheer for me, it means more than anything else. It’s a huge honor next to obviously all the other girls in this category. They all kick butt.”
Dressed in a strapless turquoise dress, heels and a sleek ponytail, Patrick looked stunning next to Stenhouse’s jeans and cowboy boots. Very different then the neon green firesuit you can catch her in every Sunday.
When Sunday’s race rolled around, Patrick was back in focus. She started 40th in the Auto Club 400 after a shaky qualifying lap but that didn’t discourage her. Almost losing a lap early, a caution saved her and allowed the GoDaddy crew to make significant changes to her car. She gave valuable and useful feedback throughout the duration of the race giving Crew Chief Tony Gibson the information he needed to give her a car she loved.
Midway through the race, her car was almost golden. She, along with a few other drivers, were on a different pit sequence than most of the leaders and often lost a lap during stops but battled to keep her car in the mix. By the end of the race, her lap times were in the ranges of the top-10 to top-15 drivers. Ending P26 and one lap down wasn’t exactly what the GoDaddy.com team was hoping for, but it was still a positive day.
“The car started off a little bit loose, but once we dialed that in, it was decent,” Patrick said in a press release after the race. “At the end of the race, I really thought it was pretty good. So I felt better at the end of the race than I did in qualifying. We made big improvements. We all want better than 26th and that’s what we had today, and it will be better next time.”
With no race this weekend due to Easter, the Series heads to Martinsville April 7th. Patrick has never raced at the famed short track before and her start in next Sunday’s race will mark the first Cup start for a woman at The Paperclip. Other women have taken to the track in the lower series, the most recent being current Nationwide Series driver Johanna Long in the Truck Series just a few years ago.
Although this weekend doesn’t involve driving a racecar, Danica Patrick doesn’t get to spend the entire weekend off. She is one of the guest readers at the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday April 1st. The Easter Egg Roll takes place on the South Lawn of the White House and promotes health and wellness, especially for kids. Seeing as Patrick tried to make time for the kids at the racetrack, being a part of the Easter Egg Roll seems quite fitting for this 31 year old.
There may not be a race this weekend, but that just means all of the excitement from Fontana will just be stronger at Martinsville, so tune in April 7th to see Danica Patrick and 42 other drivers take on one of the toughest short tracks on the circuit.
Just four races into the 2013 season and Danica Patrick has already had one heck of a year. Although she did struggle throughout the day, she came away from Bristol with her best finish since Daytona.
Bristol was one of the 10 tracks that Tony Stewart picked for Patrick to run during her limited schedule in the Sprint Cup Series last season. During the Bristol Night Race, she was running on the lead lap until she was punted into the wall by Regan Smith. This wasn’t the case last weekend as she took to the track for the second time.
After a poor qualifying effort landed her a 41st place starting position, it was clear from the beginning that Patrick was going to have a long day ahead of her. She battled a tight-handling racecar the entire day and battled back from a pit-road speeding penalty to finish 28th, five laps down from the leader.
Her day was looking promising before the pit road speeding penalty with 150 laps to go. She was running in 25th position, only three laps down. A top 20 finish was not out of her reach until she was caught speeding in the last segment of pit road and had to make a pass through that ultimately left her in 30th position.
One thing that Crew Chief Tony Gibson has praised Patrick on is her feedback. Being able to make the right wedge and track bar adjustments as well as changing the tire pressure, Gibson and the team were able to loosen up the GoDaddy Chevrolet as the race went on.
“There are a lot of things that I have to work on at this point in time. For us, the most important thing is to find a decent balance to start off the race so that we don’t drop back,” Patrick said. “We’ve been really loose the last couple of races, so we wanted to make sure we were tight. So we decided that was our accomplishment today was to aim to be tight, and we were. So we probably didn’t need to, and, in fact, we probably kind of knew we were over-compensating. But we just never really got it completely freed up like we needed to. It was better later in the race, but by then the damage is done.”
Since Daytona, Patrick hadn’t finished above 33rd position so Bristol wasn’t a huge disappointment. Patrick and her team realize that there are going to be races where she struggles, especially with this new car.
The GoDaddy team heads to Fontana this weekend to take on Auto Club Speedway for the first time in a Cup car. Patrick has competed in four races at ACS with her first being in 2005 in the IZOD IndyCar Series. She later took to the track again (twice) in 2010 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series then again in 2012 where she failed to finish due to engine troubles.
Patrick herself calls this track “challenging” saying the pavement has not aged well. “It’s a challenge to set up the car – the seams move the car around a lot,” she said. “It’s very fast, yet you still have to get the car to rotate and it seems really tight off of (turn) two. It’s one of the tougher places to get the balance right. But if you do strike a good balance in practice, you have a chance to have a really good day on Sunday.”
Crew Chief Tony Gibson is optimistic about this weekend and thinks that the speed and style of racing should play into Patrick’s favor. One thing is for sure though, Gibson is proud of what his driver has done so far.
“What impresses me is that she takes what the car will give her and not drive over her head and get herself in trouble…(Last year) I saw her get herself in trouble and get frustrated and put herself in a bad spot. This year, she’s done a good job of not doing that and just taking what the car will give her and the situation around her and finishing and making laps. She got to learn and it isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be a process for her just like any other rookie, so she’s just got to be patient with herself and it will come.”
Fontana is only the fifth race of the season and Danica Patrick still has a lot to learn but whatever this weekend holds, she can almost guarantee that Monday will be a good day. March 25th marks Danica Patrick’s 31st birthday and she and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have already begun celebrating with a trip back to Las Vegas and a concert with Country Superstar Shania Twain.
So whatever this weekend holds for Patrick, it will all be just another learning experience in the end and hopefully a good one. And with that, I think there is only one thing left to say.
Happy Birthday Danica Patrick!
Can the luck of the Irish help out Danica Patrick this weekend at Bristol? With the way her last two weeks have gone, I surely hope so.
She came off of Daytona with a burst of confidence and a top-10 finish but then it seemed like her luck went sour in Phoenix when she retired from the race thanks to a blown right front tire. Las Vegas, the sight of her 2011 4th place finish in the Nationwide Series, was looking like it could be a good track for Patrick but it seemed like her car had different ideas.
Battling a loose racecar all weekend, you could see the frustration in her eyes as she climbed out of her car on pit lane after the race. She finished 33rd and 6 laps down from the race winner Matt Kenseth.
“It was a real tough day, no doubt,” Patrick said after the race. “We know we’re going to have tough days, but this is not the kind of tough day we thought about. … We all are definitely a little somber and a lot disappointed.”
Crew Chief Tony Gibson could be heard on the radio throughout the race trying to calm his worried driver. It seemed like there was nothing that he could do that would fix her car. She often complained about it being so loose on the front stretch that she could easily spin out.
“I was extremely loose the whole time,” she said. “We made it a little bit better, sort of, in the middle of the race to where it would go for about half the run. But by the end of every run, I found myself very, very loose again.”
A loose racecar wasn’t the only thing Patrick had to worry about in Sin City. She hit the wall hard back in Phoenix which left her with a head and neck ache the next day. She and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr took a road trip together and drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas, stopping at the Hoover Dam along the way. While in Vegas, Stenhouse took her to the dirt track to watch his team race and she took another blow to the head, this time with a rock, and it took her to the ground.
“I feel like I have a concussion from last night,” she said during her media availability at Las Vegas on Friday. “It’s really sore. It hit me straight in the head. Good thing I had a hat on, or I feel like there would have been blood.”
Maybe she needs to stay away from the dirt tracks for a while, or at least stay in the stands!
Hopefully with the Luck of the Irish on her side this weekend, Patrick can have a good showing at Bristol. She was running on the lead lap and in the top-20 during the Irwin Tools Night Race last season before getting punted on lap 435. Remember the famous finger was she gave Regan Smith? Bristol seems to play well into her strengths with the high banking and the high speeds and all we have to do now is wait and see what happens on Sunday.
Just one week after her whirlwind Daytona 500, Danica Patrick, and Danicamania for that matter, was brought back to reality in Phoenix. After her history making Pole position and 8th place finish, Patrick’s fan base, and her critics, were setting standards a little too high for this rookie driver. Before her four tires even hit the track at Daytona, most expected Patrick to be a contender in the Great American Race, but I don’t think they really thought she would do as well as she did. But then again, look at her Rookie attempt at the Indianapolis 500.
After her 8th place finish at Daytona, just her 11th start in NASCAR’s highest tier, many people were, and still are, expecting Patrick to qualify and finish high is multiple races this season. What they fail to realize is that super speedways are her specialty. She excels at them. The pressure of the high speed chess match out on the track plays well into her hands.
Heading into Phoenix, where she finished 17th last season, expectations were high for another great finish, but that didn’t happen. After a poor qualifying effort, she started in the back of the field (P40). Her team didn’t even have enough points to earn themselves a garage stall and had to be parked out in the dirt and sun.
During the race, Patrick ran in the mid-20s and 30s, battling her car all weekend although she didn’t lose the lead lap. On lap 185 of the scheduled 316, she hit the wall coming off of turn 4. Patrick was one of many who had fallen victim to a blown right front. Teammate Ryan Newman suffered two blown right front tires before it ultimately sent him to the garage.
Patrick’s blown tire cam at the worst possible time. Coming off of Turn 4, the blown tire sent her careening up the racetrack and straight for the wall, crushing the right side of the car. The impact was hard enough that her car bounced off the wall and back into traffic, right into the oncoming car of David Regan. Regan’s No. 34 made contact with Patrick’s driver’s side door, tearing off the sheet metal and spreading the interior foam of the door all over the race track.
“Thank God for SAFER barriers,” Patrick said of the so-called “soft walls” which are installed at every NASCAR track. “I’m glad I didn’t drive in the days without them, because they’re very important. Anytime you have a tire blow, you’re at full speed when it happens,” she said. “You don’t anticipate, you don’t slide very much, there’s no way to slow the car down. They always feel pretty big, and whenever they go in head-first, they feel even bigger.”
The impact was one of the hardest in Patrick’s stock car career.
Patrick’s boyfriend and fellow Rookie of the Year driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr was asked about his girlfriend’s wreck during a media stop at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this week.
“Coming around the corner and seeing all the sheet metal and the form from the door pad out, I knew it was a pretty hard hit and I felt like they would have told me if would have been hurt,” Stenhouse said. “But I feel like NASCAR has done a really good job, especially with the Gen-6 car, at making them safe, so I really wasn’t too worried and like I’ve been telling people from the start of this, when we’re on the racetrack we’re focused on what we’re doing.”
Both Patrick and Stenhouse said during media day a few weeks ago that when they are out on the track, they are focused solely on their racing and not on each other. I think that was evident this past weekend.
Danica Patrick and her No. 10 GoDaddy team will take on Las Vegas this weekend. It will be her first time here in a Cup car. Las Vegas is also the sight of Patrick’s highest finish in a Stock Car to date. She finished 4th there in 2011 in the Nationwide Series.
Can she pull out a good finish this weekend? I really don’t know. If she works hard and qualifies well, I believe she can have a good day. After Phoenix, Patrick is in need of a good finish because 2013 season points starts next week in Bristol.