KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – It is difficult to believe, but less than two months ago the season’s first Pocono (Pa.) Raceway NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race took place. And this week it’s time for part two with the Windows 10 400 Sunday at the 2.5-mile triangle.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), hasn’t had the best results at Pocono with a best finish of 29th in her first race there in June 2013. She’s since finished outside of the top-30, but one needs to dig a little deeper to see she could be poised for a great finish this time around – with a little luck.
In her second race at the track in August 2013, she was running a respectable 18th when she was involved in a multicar accident in the tunnel turn and ended up 35th. She was poised for a solid top-20 finish before the incident.
In June 2014, Patrick was running second on lap 138 of 160, but she cut a left-front tire and hit the turn-three wall to end any chance of a good finish. She was scheduled to make another pit stop before the end of the race for a splash of fuel and, even though a top-10 was probably out of the question, a top-15 was what the team was aiming for when the accident occurred. She ended up 37th in the race, two laps down, after repairs.
This past June, Patrick ran as high as sixth and was scored in the 11th position when the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet made contact with the outside wall on lap 136. The subsequent damage caused the sheet metal to cut down the right-rear tire. As a result, Patrick spun in turn one and the car’s right-rear corner hit the wall.
She was able to get the car back to pit road, where the GoDaddy team assessed the damage and went to work. Patrick rejoined the field, but less than 15 laps later another flat tire sent Patrick spinning off of turn three. She impressively maneuvered the car to pit road and the team changed all four tires. Patrick completed the remaining laps and finished 37th.
After having such a strong run in June derailed by late-race contact with the wall, Patrick and crew chief Daniel Knost are hoping this week will be the one when a good finish finally comes to fruition and they can finally see solid returns.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Which of the three turns at Pocono is your favorite? Which is most challenging?
“My favorite corner at Pocono is honestly – it’s probably – turn one. You can make up a lot of ground if you’re good through there. It comes into a pretty good compression and you can drive off down into the corner. If the car turns pretty well, you can pick up the throttle really hard. And while I like turn one, the most important corner is probably turn three, leading onto the front straightaway.”
Talk about the tunnel turn at Pocono and what makes it so tough.
“Well, the tunnel turn at Pocono is pretty flat. I think that’s really one of the big things that makes it so challenging. You need to carry a lot of speed and there’s not a lot of lifting that goes on. It’s flat, so I feel like that makes it harder and it really emphasizes issues with the car. And then, when there’s not banking to push the car into the track, then it’s really up to the driver to make sure you set the car right with the throttle, brake and how you turn into the corner. All of those things make the tunnel turn tricky.”
What are your overall thoughts on Pocono?
“It’s a neat place, definitely a unique track. It’s still a place I don’t have a ton of experience at. It’s just an odd place to set the car up because the corners are so different. If you are really good in turn one, then maybe two and three are a little off. Or if you’re good in three, maybe one and two are different. I will say that the straightaway is enormous. There’s a lot of distance between turns three and one.”
DANIEL KNOST, Crew chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are the challenges that Pocono Raceway presents?
“I think, first off, you have to bring a lot of horsepower to Pocono just because of the long straightaway. So, it’s really a showdown amongst engine builders, in my opinion. There’s a durability challenge with the transmission because you’ll be shifting where you don’t normally shift, so you have to have your transmission right to where you can continue to do that all day.”
What is the key to running well at Pocono?
“Pocono has three corners that are very different. Turn one is the longest corner with the most turning, it’s the most vertical and you carry the most speed into it. Turn two is flat and squared off, and then, turn three is the slowest corner. It’s very sweeping, very flat and it sets up a very long straightaway. To me, the key at Pocono is how you get from the entry of turn three to the exit of turn one and then still be good through turn two.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine