Back to Bristol
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Aug. 19, 2015) – As NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams return to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS team are ready to return to the short track where they earned a top-10 finish earlier this season.
Patrick has raced six times at Bristol in the Sprint Cup Series and has steadily improved her performance at the track. She finished 29th there in just her fourth Sprint Cup race in August 2012, but that was hampered by an accident not of her making.
She started 43rd after qualifying was rained out, then calmly moved her way through the field. She was in the top-20 and on the lead lap with 66 laps remaining when her car was hit by another and contacted the SAFER Barrier on the inside retaining wall of the frontstretch.
Patrick finished 28th in March 2013 and then 26th that August. Last year, she finished 18th in April and ended up 27th in the August event at the track.
When Patrick and the No. 10 GoDaddy team visited Bristol for this year’s Food City 500 in March, she started 26th and overcame a number of hurdles during the race to score a ninth-place finish. That effort marked the sixth top-10 of her career and set the record for the most top-10 finishes of any female in Sprint Cup competition.
Earlier in her NASCAR career, Patrick also experienced steady improvement in the Xfinity Series at Bristol as she finished 33rd in her first race, 19th in the second and a career-best ninth in her final race in August 2012.
Last month, Patrick and the No. 10 GoDaddy team participated in a one-day, open NASCAR test at Bristol preparing for this weekend’s race. Following their success in April and added experience from the test, Patrick and her team are ready to go back to Bristol this weekend in hopes of taking home another top-10 run.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
It was announced this week that you’ve re-signed with Stewart-Haas Racing. What does it mean to you to remain with a team that you know is going to give you what you need to keep improving?
“I am just lucky to be at a team with drivers like Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch and, of course, the talent beyond that with the crew chiefs, the crews and the pit crews. It’s a great place for me to be. I have the ability to learn as much as I seek out. I also think that is rare within a team, that I have such great resources that are open books and that will help me so much. I believe that is what helps fast-forward my learning curve, at times. It really feels when I put emphasis on something to make it better, I can. I can because I can ask questions and get real answers. That is of infinite value to me. This is a very good place for me to be as a driver.”
Have you set specific goals for the rest of this year and next year now that you have sponsorship and the contract settled?
“Absolutely – it’s to continue to improve. There’s not a marker for that, necessarily. I mean, the results just have to keep getting better and better. For instance, there was emphasis after Indianapolis to get better at restarts. That’s just what I’ve done. It’s always evolving. You make something else better, something else shows up, but it’s a work in progress. I think that, for most all of your career as a driver, you continue to get better and learn, but it’s always working in that direction. Sometimes it’s moving faster than other times, sometimes moving a little bit slow for what I want, but I think that it is going in the right direction and that’s all I can ask for.”
You finished a career‑best ninth at Bristol this spring. What do you anticipate for this weekend?
“I was fortunate enough to get to test there a month or so ago. I think we made the car better. I hope that we start in a better place than we started last time. These weekends, as you know, track position is very important. We’re going to do everything we can to unload better than we did last time so we can qualify better. We definitely caught some breaks, but we made the car better in the race the last time we were there. That’s what got us into the position we were in. That’s the motivation for this weekend. It will be great to have another top-10. I always think, if you’re on the lead lap at the end of the race, anything can happen when you come down to the last restart. I’m sure that Bristol will be all that Bristol usually is. I’m sure it will get a little bit rough out there. That’s kind of what you have to do to get by cars these days. We have to put ourselves in a position to have a good enough car to put it wherever I need to get by people and be aggressive. So that’s what we’re going to work on for this weekend. But, first and foremost, it’s going to start with unloading better and qualifying as far up as we can.”
What is it about the night race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway that makes it so special?
“I feel like racing at night makes everything look a bit more exciting and faster. Bristol is a pretty cool-looking track in the daytime and, when you race at night and they turn the lights on and there are cars bumper to bumper pretty much the whole way around the track, it just takes things up a notch and there are sparks flying and all sorts of stuff going on. It’s a great tradition at a great track that’s provided some pretty good entertainment over the years.”
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 in case 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 aggressive do you have to be?
“Every single one of us is going to go as absolutely hard as possible. There’s never a plan to back off, or go easy or anything like that, other than if you are saving fuel out there on a strategy at the end of the race, you always go as fast as you can, all the time.”
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.”
What are your 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