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.