KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series nears the midpoint of the 2015 season as it returns to where it all started back in February – Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, site of Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola.
After a tumultuous Budweiser Speedweeks in February, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) return to the 2.5-mile superspeedway ready to improve upon their early season performance at the track, much the way Patrick has shown improvement throughout the first half of the Sprint Cup season.
In February, Patrick raced her way into the field for the 57th running of the Daytona 500, but had to start at the rear of the field after crashing her primary racecar in the Budweiser Duel qualifying race. She ran as high as 10th in the “Great American Race” but got mired in traffic in the late stages of the event and finished 21st.
Since Daytona, Patrick has demonstrated marked improvement from her first two seasons in the Sprint Cup ranks. So far this season, she has earned two top-10 finishes, has an average starting position of 22.2, a 20.5 average finish, is ranked 19th in the driver point standings and, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics, she has made 336 quality passes, has run in the top-15 for 703 laps, or 14.9 percent, and has a driver rating of 66.2. Following the race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway last year, Patrick had one top-10, an average starting position of 21.8, a 25.4 average finish, and was 28th in the standings. She had also made 327 quality passes, ran inside the top-15 for 556 laps, or 11.5 percent, and had a 60.6 driver rating. At this point in the 2013 season, Patrick had scored one top-10 finish, had an average starting position of 32, a 25.8 average finish and was 27th in the driver standings. She’d also completed 288 quality passes, raced inside the top-15 for 392 laps, or 8.1 percent, and had a 54.5 driver rating.
Patrick returns to Daytona with six prior Sprint Cup starts at the superspeedway. She’s earned two top-10 finishes at the track, including an eighth-place finish in last year’s Coke Zero 400. With that experience and the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS team behind her, Patrick is ready to try and make good things happen come Sunday night.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are three words that describe restrictor-plate races?
“Three words that describe plate racing would be: crazy, fast and risky.”
Describe the intensity of restrictor-plate racing.
“It’s super easy to drive around the track flat-out by yourself. It’s not hard at all. When you put all of the other cars around you, it’s not necessarily about how the car feels on the track, although that can be an issue, for sure, at times. But, it’s more about what everyone else is doing around you. You’re constantly looking at what’s happening in front of you. You’re also looking at what’s behind you. Probably more important than what’s happening in front of you is what’s happening behind you – who’s coming, who’s following you, who’s helping you move forward. There have been plenty of times that I’ve gone to the bottom and complained, ‘Where’s my help?’ It seems like I’ll slot in on the bottom line and then everyone behind me disappears. You really have to have people behind you, pushing you. The race is constantly evolving and you and your spotter have to be on it. It’s a big race for spotters, so having a really good one that you trust is very important.”
What are your overall thoughts on Daytona International Speedway?
“I always like going there. It’s where my first stock-car start was in 2010 and I actually have a lot of experience there. At the end of the day, you just need to be in the right place at the right time. A lot of it is out of your control. But I think we’ll be good and hopefully have a car that can compete and win.”
Are you comfortable in the draft?
“I’ve been comfortable racing in the draft since I started racing in the IndyCar Series.”
Are you any more or less confident coming into races at Daytona or Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway based on your ability on restrictor-plate tracks?
“That’s probably a question I’ve gotten since I’ve been in NASCAR. As time goes, I really don’t feel much different other than I feel like I’m getting better overall and able to get speed out of myself and in the race, especially on all kinds of different tracks. That’s more in my control and our control as a team. So the results are a little bit more matchable. You can trust what you’re able to do a little bit more. On a superspeedway, who knows? To me, they were, in the beginning especially, my opportunities to have really good finishes. But, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. So, now they feel very similar to me. I’m thinking more about the luck side of it than probably the potential to have my really good races because I feel like we’re able to do that here and there on lots of other tracks, now.”
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