KANNAPOLIS, N.C.– After overcoming adversity at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) are ready to return to the site of Patrick’s career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish: Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In Daytona last week, Patrick faced numerous hurdles, including a poor qualifying position and two wrecked racecars, but she was able to race her way into the field for the 57th running of the Daytona 500 and bring home a solid finish. With Budweiser Speedweeks in the history books, the “regular” Sprint Cup season commences with Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 at Atlanta.
Last Labor Day weekend at Atlanta, Patrick and her GoDaddy team started the Oral-B USA 500 from the 27th position. Twice in the early stages of the race, she rallied from being a lap down. By the halfway point of the race, Patrick worked her way into the top-15 and would stay there for the rest of the night. Her lap times continued to improve and, by the 300-lap mark, she was solidly in the top-10. Patrick managed to run as high as fourth before taking the checkered flag sixth. The effort beat her previous highest finish – a seventh-place run at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City last May – by one position.
Patrick’s sixth-place finish was the best by a female at Atlanta. The previous record was Janet Guthrie’s 10th-place finish on March 19, 1978. Only a fifth-place result by Sara Christian in a Sprint Cup race on Oct. 2, 1949 at Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway tops Patrick effort last year at Atlanta. Christian also finished sixth at Langhorn (Pa.) Speedway on Sept. 11, 1949, and Guthrie finished sixth at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977.
The No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet team’s run at Atlanta was the fourth top-10 of Patrick’s Sprint Cup Career and her second at a 1.5-mile track.
Now six months later, Patrick returns to Atlanta after surviving a tough Speedweeks at Daytona. And, given her history of success at 1.5-mile tracks, she and the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet team are ready to get back on track in Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about what clicked in Atlanta for you last year when you finished sixth. What are you looking for there?
“I feel like the team did a great job with the car there last year. I think grip is a premium, obviously, as the tires fall off there maybe more than anywhere else we go. I think that’s where you really rely on the downforce of the car and having a car that does what you want it to do consistently through the tire life, as well. By the time we got to Atlanta last season, we had worked on the car a lot throughout the year and got it to a point where it was how I liked it. I think the team did a great job with the car itself, giving me the most amount of downforce possible to deal with no grip left.”
How important is it to run well at Atlanta, and at intermediate tracks, early in the season?
“Well, you have to do well to have momentum. There’s no promise there. With a new crew chief and new cars, it might not go well at all. On the other hand, it might be awesome. We just won’t know until we get there. I think that’s the case for every team. You really don’t know how you’re going to do until you really get out there and actually get running. We’ll just have to see.”
Talk about the new adjustment rule from inside the car from a driver’s perspective.
“I come from a world of a ton of adjustments (in the IndyCar Series) – the track bars, front and rear, and weight jackers and bump adjusters and a lot of stuff that you can move – so it’s familiar. I like it on a personal level, but I’m not 100 percent sure it’s going to make for better racing. I think that what we love about good racing is passing and, if I’m really, really loose out there and I can fix it, I’m not going to get passed as easily and I’m also not going to pass the person in front of me because they can also fix how tight they are. It fixes the problems instead of having to wait until the next pit stop. It’ll be interesting to see if it makes for better racing as much as it just gives drivers comfort.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine