When Danica Patrick took to the track in upstate New York last weekend in her No.10 GoDaddy.com Chevy, there was a little more on her mind than just turning right.
Just a few days before the Sprint Cup Series hit the track for their final road course race of the season, Patrick’s teammate and owner Tony Stewart broke both bones in his lower right leg. The injury, which required immediate surgery, will keep Stewart out of the car indefinitely and left Patrick and fellow Stewart-Haas Racing driver Ryan Newman with a new teammate and at Watkins Glen, that was Max Papis.
With Stewart no doubt in the back of her and her teams mind, Patrick drove an impressive race on Sunday. With as many as three spotters guiding her around the racetrack, Patrick dodged two late-race wrecks to finish a respectable 20th.
“I think at the end of the day, there was a lot going on, especially at the end,” Patrick said. “So I just tried to stay calm and stay focused on not making any mistakes. It was really easy to make mistakes out there, and we worked on the car, and I feel like we have a direction for next time.”
If it weren’t for her eyes above the track, Patrick would have likely been caught up in the carnage that came in the last 20 laps of the race.
“The spotters did a great job today,” Patrick said. “It’s so tough sometimes to see what’s going on ahead of you on a road course, but they kept me aware and kept me out of trouble, especially at the end. I’m proud of the entire GoDaddy team. We didn’t nail it today…but I think we made gains, for sure, from the beginning of practice until the end of the race.”
After the race, Crew Chief Tony Gibson came over the radio and promised the spotters a 6-pack, and a well deserved one at that.
This weekend, the team heads to Michigan, a place where Patrick excelled just a few months ago. Patrick earned herself a top-15 finish at Michigan back in June and Gibson and Patrick hope to improve the second time around.
Patrick’s overall thoughts on Michigan can be summed up in one word, Momentum. “I think it’s a momentum track and I feel like I come from a background of carrying a lot of momentum and using a lot of throttle,” she said in a press release on her website. “I think we caught some breaks (in June). Yellows definitely helped us be able to get track position as far as closing up the gaps and being able to pit a few times. It was nice to just get a decent finish for the team and for GoDaddy.”
Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr hit the links in New York before hitting the track last weekend. Stenhouse, an avid golfer, was able to get tickets for the PGA Golf Championship last Thursday and although it wasn’t racing related, there were still plenty of young girls there who know who Patrick was.
“There was a little girl at the PGA Championship last Thursday. She wasn’t little, she was maybe 10 (years old) and her dad was telling her who I was as I was walking by,” she said. “I could hear it all happening – you know, it’s right behind me. He had said, ‘Hello,’ and so as I kind of turned off to walk another way, I looked over just to wave at her. It would be easy enough for me to just keep walking and they didn’t say anything to me. They didn’t try and say hello again or take a picture or anything, but I could tell she figured out who I was and she thought that was cool. So I just turned around to wave at her. She will have that story, now, as opposed to me walking away. Just little stuff like that.”
If you head to any racetrack where Patrick may be competing, it is abundantly clear to see how much of an impact she has on young girls and women everywhere and for Patrick, she is just honored to be in a position to be a role model.