KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – 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 Sunday with the Pennsylvania 400 at the 2.5-mile triangle.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), hasn’t had the best results at Pocono since she made her first start at the track in June 2013. She’s finished outside of the top-30 in five of the seven races she’s run at Pocono, 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.
Then, in June 2015, Patrick ran as high as sixth and was scored 11th when the No. 10 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 drive back to pit road, where the No. 10 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.
When the Sprint Cup Series visited Pocono Raceway in June, Patrick was relegated to a 32nd-place finish after midrace contact sent the car into the wall on the Long Pond straightaway. At the time of the incident, Patrick had been scored 16th. The damage forced the team to go to the garage to make substantial repairs before Patrick was able to rejoin the field.
In light of Patrick’s bad luck at Pocono, last August she was able to score a 16th-place result despite running out of fuel with two laps to go in the 160-lap event.
After having a number of strong runs derailed at the “Tricky Triangle,” Patrick and the No. 10 Mobil 1 Chevrolet team are hoping this week will be one where they find some good luck there and pull off another solid finish, like last year.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Mobil 1 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 where I don’t have a ton of experience. 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.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine