KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The 14-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys co-wrote the song “Girl on Fire” for her fifth studio album in 2012. The powerful song climbed the Billboard charts and received critical acclaim as an anthem brimming with self-confidence and empowerment.
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Food City 500 in support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer, Keys’s song could also be considered an anthem for Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
She’s just a girl, and she’s on fire
As Patrick enters the eighth race of the Sprint Cup season, her early season statistics speak for themselves. She’s earned three top-20 finishes in a row and a four so far this year. That’s double the amount Patrick had scored in the same timeframe her previous two full-time Sprint Cup seasons.
Oh, she got both feet on the ground
And she’s burning it down
Patrick’s average starting position is 20.1, a significant improvement over her 33.3 in 2013 and 25.6 in 2014.
Oh, she got her head in the clouds
And she’s not backing down
She has an 18.9 average finish this year. That’s six positions better than two years ago and eight better than last season.
This girl is on fire
So far this season, Patrick is ranked 17th in the Sprint Cup driver standings with 176 points. In 2013, she was 26th with 135 points. In 2014, she was 29th with 121 points.
She’s walking on fire
According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Patrick has completed 143 quality passes in 2015. That statistic counts only passes made while in the top-15 and under green-flag conditions. Two years ago, Patrick had 97 and last year she had 65.
Looks like a girl, but she’s a flame
So bright, she can burn your eyes
This season Patrick has run in the top-15 for 455 laps, which is 21.2 percent of the laps completed. Those figures are more than double her rookie season, when she was in the top-15 for 225 laps and 9.7 percent of the laps run. Her 2015 totals are also more than six times the figures she posted last year when she raced in the top-15 for 66 laps and 2.8 percent of the laps run.
Everybody stands, as she goes by
Cause they can see the flame that’s in her eyes
Prior to the start of the Food City 500 in support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer, each driver will walk out to a song of their choosing for driver introductions. For this weekend’s race, Patrick tasked the members of her No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS team with selecting the song she will walk out to. Perhaps her early season success and confidence is the reason why the team chose Keys’s “Girl on Fire” as Patrick’s anthem for Sunday’s introductions.
This girl is on fire
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Do you like racing at Bristol?
“I do. I like Bristol. Obviously, it can be a little bit – the cars definitely got in a train last time we were here. It was tough. It was a little bit hard to pass. But like I said, that is why the bottom becomes important because, if you get stuck or even if you start on the bottom on a restart, if your car is turning, you can make that work, I think, for a little while. I think qualifying is going to be really important, so I’m definitely going to find myself doing a lot more qualifying runs – as many as possible before qualifying in the afternoon. But, I’ve liked Bristol since the first time I came here.”
How grueling is 500 laps at Bristol?
“It’s fine. I think it is a little daunting to say 500 laps, but there are a lot of times that we do 500 laps, or 500 miles, and this is just one of them. I feel like no matter what happens – whether it’s a 400-mile race or a 500-lap race – you find your rhythm. Time goes by fast sometimes, and then sometimes it’s slow. All I hope is that the car has a good balance because, when it doesn’t, that’s when the laps seem wrong. If we can just get into a rhythm, find ourselves in a good spot and have a consistent car throughout the race, then the time does go pretty quickly, usually.”
Fans come to Bristol and typically expect a lot of beating and banging. Do you like that kind of racing?
“Yes, I enjoy it. I mean, I don’t mind some beating and banging out there. I don’t mind pushing your way around a little bit. It just happens. It’s just the nature of short tracks when you’re running really close to one another. You put 43 cars out on a track the size of Bristol and you’re filling up a lot of the track. The short tracks are conducive for close racing since aerodynamics don’t come into play quite as much.”
Overall thoughts heading into Bristol?
“I’ve liked Bristol since I went there the first time. I remember when I set foot onto that track, it was the day before, it was load-in day and I looked out there and you’re standing on the straightaway, but it sure seems like a corner. It’s a very cool track and a spectacle for the fans. I feel like that is always the one that everyone says, ‘I want to come see a Bristol race.’ It’s always entertaining there for the fans and, hopefully, we can put on another good show for them this week.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine