In the matter of 4 days, Danica Patrick had been in three different time zones. Patrick started off the Kansas race week in Los Angeles shooting a commercial for GoDaddy.com with GoDaddy and IRL driver James Hinchcliffe. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Patrick found herself back at Daytona for the first time since her historic Speedweeks, participating in a tire test with a few other drivers and teams. Then it was off to Kansas for the eighth race of the season.
Returning to Kansas Speedway for the second time, you can bet Patrick was determined to have a different outcome than last season when she unintentionally took herself out of the race. This year though, she ran into a different problem. Patrick was eyeing a top-15 finish until a piece of trash on her grille forced her to make an unscheduled pit stop, putting her 2 laps down to the leaders. She would eventually get one lap back and finish 25th.
“We started out pretty good, but we just got tight in the second half of the race,” Patrick said after the race. “We had a tire rub at one point and issues with the splitter from some contact we made. The trash on the grille was what really hurt us today. It’s disappointing because I think we could have had a much better finish with the Go Daddy Chevy, but it’s one of those things that’s out of our control.”
Crew Chief Tony Gibson thought his driver did very well considering the unfortunate circumstances.
“She did a great job, and it was definitely a top-15 car,” Gibson said. “We made improvement and the pit stops were good, but you can’t do anything about the trash on the grille. It’s just one of those things we just can’t control. That’s just part of it. But the bright side is that we finished again and got a lot of laps in, and we made some improvements and made a lot of gains. I felt like today was a positive day.”
Up next for Patrick is her first attempt at Richmond International Raceway, in a Cup car that is. She has competed in five IZOD IndyCar Series races where she has scored four top-10 finishes and three NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Richmond. It was also just three short weeks ago that Patrick impressed many by finishing 12th in her first attempt at Martinsville Speedway. Richmond, a .75 mile oval, should play well into Patrick’s skill set but one thing the team needs to improve on, is qualifying.
She has talked to teammate and owner Ton Stewart and knows qualifying is something she needs to work on. “It’s not necessarily my strong area and I know that,” she said in her pre-race report. “I was saying that in the Nationwide Series – once I really got comfortable in the car and understood it and what it did when you pushed it, and obviously developed a setup that I am comfortable with, things really changed. And, all of a sudden, it was like a light switch and I was like, all right, I’m actually not so bad at qualifying these things anymore. But it took time. I think the best thing we can do at this point in time is to try and get a car underneath me that I feel comfortable with and try to develop a good platform that we can go with each and every weekend to these 1.5-mile tracks, and to the short tracks, too, and just know what I have, as well.”
Her qualifying efforts get better with each weekend and with another Super Speedway coming up soon, another top-10 starting spot is not out of her reach.
Before Patrick heads to Richmond, she has a few pit stops to make including appearances on The Colbert Report and the ever popular morning news program, the Today Show. Check her out on both of these programs and don’t forget to tune in to watch the action in Richmond this Saturday night at 7:30 EST.
After a great run at Martinsville, the GoDaddy team was looking to carry that into this last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Danica Patrick started the weekend off on a high note as she arrived at the track decked out in full western gear, even sporting a cowboy hat and the big belt buckle given to her by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. last season. But as the race weekend got started, Patrick’s chipper attitude changed as her team, and the other Stewart-Haas Racing cars, started to struggle.
Patrick and her No. 10 GoDaddy team seemed to struggle at Texas with the setup of the car. After running well during the first and most of the second practice sessions, it looked like this could end up being another great weekend for Patrick, but then things started going downhill.
After a poor qualifying run left her starting 42nd out of 43 cars, Patrick had to fight her way to the front once again.
At the start of the 500 mile race, Patrick was fighting a very loose race car. When Crew Chief Tony Gibson came over the radio asking her how bad it was, she responded with a shaky voice, “4 out of 5” loose. A caution allowed her team to make some adjustments but she was already lapped by the leaders.
As the laps counted down, Gibson and his team made major changes to her car and by midway through the race, it was much better than it had been. Unfortunately, on a track like Texas, once you go down multiple laps, it is hard to get them back. Danica ended the day P28 and three laps down to the leaders.
Although there were some rough spots in the race, the banter on the radio was still light and funny. A late race caution that left many confused as to where they started caused this little conversation between Danica and her Crew Chief, “I feel like I don’t understand what’s going on here.” “We got no beef with any of these guys so stay clean.”
At the end of the day, or night I should say, this was another great learning experience for Danica and her team. She had made one previous start at Texas in the Sprint Cup Series at the end of last season and it was also the first race she was paired with Gibson.
“It was a tough night,” Patrick said. “The car was just kind of all over the place at the beginning. Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the GoDaddy guys kept working on it all night, and we made some improvements on it. The pit crew did a good job on the stops. We just need to get better on the 1.5-mile tracks. I know the team will keep working at it. We’ll see what we can do in Kansas.”
She does indeed head to Kansas Speedway this weekend for her second start there in the Cup Series. She made her debut there last October after the track was repaved. She was battling Landon Cassill throughout the race, bumping and banging each other until Danica had had enough. She bumped Cassill on the backstretch trying to turn him but instead she sent herself spinning, ending her day. She had a top 10 finish in the Nationwide Series there in October.
Looking at the next few weekends heading into the summer, the tracks look promising for Patrick and her team. Talladega, a super-speedway, should be another great finish for Patrick and following Talladega is Darlington. The season is just starting for this Rookie and she has plenty of time to improve as she heads into the summer months. And as she heads into the Kansas weekend, she currently leads the Rookie points over her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The GoDaddy team went into this weekend with little expectations. Martinsville is known for being tough on even the most experienced veterans yet this Rookie driver finished 12th in her debut at the paperclip.
“I don’t know what to expect.” That’s what Danica had to say before she took her first laps at this small half-mile track. Her boss and car owner Tony Stewart said her first time here would probably be pretty comical, but bot was he wrong. Not only did Patrick finish higher than Stewart in Sunday’s race, but she was the highest finishing Stewart-Hass car all weekend.
Qualifying 32nd, it seemed like this was going to be another struggle for Patrick. Then during final practice, she shifted from 4th to 3rd gear and over-revved the engine. The Hendrick Engine Specialists decided it was in the team’s best interest to change it and start from the rear. It was not looking promising for the No. 10 and the race hadn’t even started yet.
Patrick had made it just 17 laps into the race when she spun in turns three and four and brought out a caution. The spin eventually put her 2 laps down to the leaders, but Crew Chief Tony Gibson kept his team and driver calm and rallied back.
Taking the wave-around on laps 242 and 288, Patrick got back on the lead lap, and drove the race of her life. By the closing laps of the race, she was P11 and ahead of her boss Tony Stewart. A little bumping and banging dropped her to 12th and that was where she would cross the finish line.
“I tried to guard the inside right there at the end and then (Brian) Vickers gave me a bump, and I get it,” She said in the post-race report released on her personal website. “I was trying to defend and hold my position. We still came away with a 12th-place finish. I think you take what the car gives you… And my car was pretty good all day. We kind of bounced around from being a little loose to a little tight, but we got the GoDaddy Chevy back up there. We obviously went down real early with that spin and were two laps down at one point in time. So I feel like that’s almost one of the things I’m most proud of is coming back from two laps down to being on the lead lap and then grabbing a 12th place at the end.”
Her Crew Chief Tony Gibson was impressed with his driver, even crashing the end of her post-race interview to give her a hug and high-five. “I figured if we could finish top 25 and be a couple of laps down, it would be a miracle,” Gibson said after the race. “I never dreamed this. I knew after Saturday and Friday that we had a good Go Daddy Chevrolet. I knew she was capable of doing it… To be able to go through all that beating and banging and survive and finish 12th is unbelievable.”
At the end of the race, it seemed like there were many notable people who were impressed with Patrick’s run at Martinsville (see tweets below).
@SherylCrow: Way to go @DanicaPatrick finishing 12th! #NASCAR #martinsville
@HollyCain: Interesting. @DanicaPatrick 12th place in 1st trip to Mville is better Mville debut than @tonystewart @JimmieJohnson & @RustyWallace #NASCAR
@DanicaRacing: . @JimmieJohnson just sent his spotter over to tell @danicapatrick ‘s spotter that she’s doing a heck of a job. First time @MartinsvilleSwy
Patrick and the GoDaddy team head to Texas this weekend and according to Gibson are testing there this week before the race. Patrick has visited the Wild Asphalt Circus multiple times both in IndyCar (8) and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (4). Texas was also one of her 10 Sprint Cup Series races last season and was the first race in which she was paired with Gibson and his team. In her only Cup start at this track, she started 32nd and finished 24th, which at the time was her best finish in the series.
Texas is one of those high-banked and high-speed tracks which play well into Patrick’s skill set and coming off of the great run at Martinsville, both her and her team’s confidence is high. The races leading into the summer stretch should also treat Patrick well. After Texas, she heads to Kansas and in three weeks, another superspeedway at Talladega.
Hopefully her great run at Martinsville is just the start of GoDaddy teams’ uphill climb. Patrick is still a Rookie in the Sprint Cup Series and really, in NASCAR as a whole. She still has a lot to learn and a lot to experience but with all of the seat time she will be getting in the coming weeks, she will be more than prepared to tackle these tracks when the Sprint Cup Series returns to them later in the season.