When the checkered flag flew to signal the end on the Camping World RV Sales 301, Danica Patrick knew she had a lot of apologizing to do.
Patrick was involved in a late race crash of her own making last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that resulted in her taking out herself, Travis Kvapil and boyfriend/competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr. After emerging from her car, looking visibly upset, Patrick admitted to causing the three car accident.
“What it felt like was either I misjudged the braking or everyone jammed up a little bit,” Patrick said. “I got sideways trying to slow down so that I didn’t drive up into the back of anyone. I just got sideways and there is nothing you can do. The worst part is that you know, obviously, I didn’t want to take anybody with me. I feel bad. What can I say? We were having a reasonable race and just didn’t mean to do it.”
It was obvious that she was shaken from a hard hit to the wall and when asked if she was alright, she said yes; her voice breaking.
Patrick, the team and the rest of the Sprint Cup Series took a week off before they head in to a 17 race stretch to end the season.
During her off week, Patrick did anything but relax. She made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last Tuesday where, when asked about the New Hampshire incident, she jokingly denied that it ever happened, only to be reminded with a video clip.
Leno then asked about wrecking her boyfriend to which she responded, “I did sleep on the couch that night.”
Patrick, who is known for her very firm handshake, was asked to take a grip test to see just how firm of a hold she has. A woman between the age of 30 and 34 should have a grip strength of 70 pounds. Patrick, at 31 years of age, measured a grip of 100 pounds, well over the male average as well.
Patrick’s appearance on Jay Leno showed that once she retires from racing, she could take up a career in comedy. Check out the full appearance here.
After her stint on Leno, Patrick geared up for another appearance at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Patrick presented the award for favorite male athlete to LeBron James who towered over the 5’2’’ Patrick in heels.
Patrick and the team may have taken a weekend off from racing but in just a few short days, they will be back on track for the 20th running of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a place all too familiar to Patrick.
With seven starts in the historical Indianapolis 500, the race that catapulted Patrick to stardom in 2005, Patrick is ready to take to the track again but this time, in a stock car.
It was the site of her historic run and the track where she feels most at home and last weekend, Danica Patrick returned to Daytona to take on the Super Speedway for the first time since she took the motorsports world by storm at the Daytona 500.
Although she didn’t lead laps last weekend at Daytona, Patrick ran has high as 2nd and looked like she was on her way to another top-10 finish until a last lap crash put her in 14th. The rear bumper of Patrick’s car came together with David Gilliland, triggering a multi-car accident as the pack came to the start-finish line collecting 10 cars in total. Patrick’s car received significant damage but she was able to drive it to the garage.
“Well, a green-white-checkered finish is always exciting,” Patrick said after the race. “Junior and I had a good run through the middle and then up high around (turn) four. And I just watched the replay. It felt like I ran just along the wall but it could have been me that came down in front of the No. 38 (Gilliland). It definitely wasn’t what I was trying to do at all. I was just following the No. 88 (Earnhardt Jr.). So, if that’s what happened, then I definitely apologize. I lost spots doing it,” she continued. “All in all, it was a solid day. I felt like we were a little slow to get going but I felt like we made the car better and I felt like I figured out some things in the car that helped. We got the GoDaddy car in a decent position. We ran strong and that’s what we want to do. I thought the Chevys looked really good in the race.”
Patrick had many alliances throughout the race including race winner Jimmie Johnson who relayed through his spotter that he wanted her to follow him on a restart when she was sitting right behind him. Johnson waited for Patrick to clear the car beside her before he changed lanes, allowing Patrick to follow and run second for many laps.
There is one more plate track race this season when the series heads to Talladega later in the season and it should be another great showing for Patrick and the GoDaddy team.
This weekend, the team heads to New Hampshire. This will mark the first time that Patrick has been to Loudon in the Sprint Cup Series but her Crew Chief Tony Gibson hasn’t missed a race at the track since NASCAR started competing there in 1993 and took Ryan Newman to Victory Lane back in 2011.
This weekend, he has his Rookie Driver behind the wheel and hopes that his experience at the track and Patrick’s ability to absorb information and learn plus the testing they did back in June will help them get another great finish as they head into the off week.
“The test went really good. The first day was her kind of learning the track and learning the Cup car. 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,” Gibson said.
Patrick is hoping for another great finish this weekend. In the last 5 races, Patrick has two top-15 finishes and finished on the lead lap. Ending on a good finish before the break will be good motivation for Patrick and the GoDaddy team.
Patrick is definitely happy with the progress she and her team are making this season but wishes the progress would happen a little faster.
“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,” she said in a press release. “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.”
After this weekend, the Sprint Cup Series enters its first off week since April. Patrick will be on hand next week for the ESPY Awards in LA then off to Chicago for a wedding with her family. When the series returns to competition, Patrick will be heading to a place where she shot herself to celebrity status back in 2005; Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A little more than four months have gone by since Danica Patrick took the motorsports world by storm by winning the Pole for the Daytona 500. For a full week, Patrick appeared in the lives of American and people all over the world. Newspapers, websites, news programs and just about every medium possible took her history making Pole win and turned it into a campaign to get more people than ever to tune into the Great American Race.
Since Patrick’s eights place finish to kick off the season, her results and statistics have been less than spectacular. With two more top-15 finishes under her belt since Daytona, she can mostly be found running below the top-20, but what most need to remember is that she is a Rookie.
On the heels of comments made my analyst and former driver Kyle Petty, Patrick is well on her way to proving him wrong. Petty recently accused Patrick of being a “marketing machine” and “not a racecar driver.” These comments weren’t necessarily warranted or deserved and Patrick, when asked what her thoughts were, said she didn’t care what he thought; you can’t please everybody.
This weekend, the series is back at Daytona for the Coke Zero 400 and Patrick is back in her comfort zone. Nearing the top of the speed charts during yesterday’s practice, the GoDaddy car is fast and ready to go. Unfortunately, this isn’t the same car she won the Pole award with.
“Well, we lost that poor car at Talladega,” she said in her press conference last weekend. “So we are going back with our backup, which is a really good car, anyway. We tested with it at the beginning of the year and I expect it to go in a similar fashion. I think we will still be pretty fast.”
Patrick and the team are optimistic about this weekend and hope to build on February’s performance.
“Will we qualify on the pole and run in the top-three or five all day? I don’t know, maybe,” she said. “The heat always changes things a little bit, but it’s a different car, and it’s going to be a different Hendrick engine. All that stuff just leads to a slightly different weekend. But I expect it to be somewhat similar, at least from a good standpoint in my head.
When she took the white flag in the Daytona 500, Patrick was running third but crossing the stripe to take the checkers she finished eighth. She hopes to have a better plan in place this time for the end of the race.
“I was disappointed at the end of the race that I just didn’t have a better grasp as to what I needed to do to shoot for a better finish than where I was,” she said. “It really helped teach me, I feel, what happens at the end of the race and how to set them up. (Dale Earnhardt) Junior is really good at those big speedway races and knowing how to set things up. But, I just felt like I was just frustrated that I didn’t have a better plan.”
There were many drivers that came up to her after the race saying that they were really impressed with her run and also gave her a little advice.
“Tony (Stewart) said to me, ‘I really feel like you had more to lose in your position than you had to gain by trying something, so I think that you did the right thing.’ That made me feel better – a little bit,” she said with a bit of a smile on her face. “Was I still mad that I went from third to eighth on the lap? No, I was still disappointed in it. Jimmie (Johnson) did a nice job. We had a little conversation, and he told me I did a nice job, too. And I said I had wished I had a better plan but, ‘Thank you and I have a lot to learn.’ He said that in the two wins he had, he didn’t have a plan, and sometimes you just have to take it on the fly and work with what happens in the moment. He very kindly, later that day, said he’d seen the end of the race and said, in his opinion, the only thing I could have done was back up to Junior when he backed up, but as far as what happened on the back straight when Junior went low, in his opinion, he thought I did the right thing.”
This time, Patrick has a plan; or at least she thinks she does. She had more to lose in the Daytona 500 and taking a risky move that she wasn’t ready to make could have put her lower then 20th at the end of the race. This time, she is going all out and going for the win. With Patrick at Daytona, anything is possible and the GoDaddy team, led by Tony Gibson, is just a excited as she is for this weekend. Could she make history again this weekend? It is quite possible.