Smile – It’s Vegas
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The city of Las Vegas has given plenty of people reason to smile through the years.
Danica Patrick hopes to hit it big in Vegas this weekend and leave with a smile, but it won’t be on red or black on the Roulette table, nor will it be in her familiar green Chevrolet.
For this weekend’s Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, Patrick’s car will sport the blue and white colors of Aspen Dental, one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of dental care providers in the U.S. with more than 430 locations in communities across 27 states, providing millions of Americans with access to quality, affordable dental care.
Every Aspen Dental practice offers a full range of dental services — including comprehensive exams, cleanings, extractions, dentures, fillings, periodontal treatment, whitening, oral surgery, crown and bridge work.
Patrick is driving the No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS at both Las Vegas this weekend and on Labor Day weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It’s part of Patrick shining a spotlight on an often overlooked healthcare issue – oral health. She’s teamed up with Aspen Dental to support the Healthy Mouth Movement, a community-giving initiative designed to deliver free dental care to thousands of people in need in communities across the U.S., and oral health education to millions more.
Through the Healthy Mouth Movement, dentists and team members from Aspen Dental practices in 27 states will volunteer a day to provide much-needed dental care to those who need it most, free of charge, no questions asked. And to reach communities where care isn’t available, the newly constructed Aspen Dental MouthMobile – a fully-equipped dental office on wheels – will go directly into communities to not only provide free service, but to raise awareness.
The Healthy Mouth Movement has already impacted communities across Florida and Georgia where, in just a single week in February, Aspen Dental teams delivered more than $136,000 in donated dentistry to nearly 400 patients.
And if Patrick has a successful run Sunday, it won’t be the first time she’s left Vegas with a smile. In March 2011, she finished fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the best finish by a woman in a NASCAR national stock-car series, topping a fifth-place run by Sarah Christian in a Sprint Cup race in 1949 at Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Overall thoughts heading into Las Vegas?
“Hopefully our luck turns around after Daytona and Phoenix. We just seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s disappointing because the crew has given me two great cars and we have nothing to show for it. We had a good run in the Nationwide Series race at Vegas a few years ago and we’d love to have another one. It seems like SHR is really headed in the right direction, especially with Kevin (Harvick’s) win last week. Congrats to him and the team. I think our cars are really strong and the hard word of the entire team is starting to show.”
There are new colors on the car for you this week with the blue and white of Aspen Dental. Talk about that.
“We do have different look this week. I’m excited about it. We’re lucky to have Aspen Dental on the car this week at Vegas and then in September at Atlanta. I spent some time at Aspen Dental’s headquarters in Syracuse (N.Y.) last year and have done a lot of work with them in the offseason and what they’re doing is amazing. I didn’t realize until I starting working with them that lack of dental care is a serious issue. Last year, 100 million Americans didn’t visit a dentist, and millions more live in communities with little or no access to dental care. It’s an issue that affects a lot of hard-working people, including NASCAR fans, who are often living in pain. Aspen Dental decided to do something about it, and that’s why I’m proud to partner with them.”
How beneficial is the extra test day for the Aspen Dental team Thursday at Las Vegas?
“I’m never going to complain about more track time. It’s helpful for me, it’s helpful for Tony Gibson (crew chief), it’s helpful for the engineers and the entire team. Hopefully we can learn a few things and have a good car for qualifying and the race. We still need to improve on qualifying and that’s going to be a big focus for us. Things are just so much easier when you qualify well and it’s frustrating when you don’t.”
TONY GIBSON, Crew chief of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The Aspen Dental team had a strong car last week at Phoenix before an accident took the team out of contention. Talk about that.
“The car was really good at the start of the race. We moved up to 23rd by the first caution. Things were going well, the car was handling well and Danica was doing a phenomenal job. It’s one of those deals where, on the restarts, if you’re further back than 10th, you’re probably in jeopardy. And we got hooked up with the wrong guys back there and got knocked around and knocked the fenders in against the tires. We got it beat back out and didn’t lose a lap, so we’re we still looking pretty good. And then, on low air pressure, we had a fender brace get against the tire and cut it, so that’s when we spun and lost a few laps trying to get that fixed. It was a tough day for us but, on the good side of it, we had a fast car – probably the fastest car we’ve had in a long time. We were fast in happy hour. All of our Stewart-Haas cars were fast and Danica was really pumped coming into the race. We started the race passing cars and going forward but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’ll keep our head down and keep digging. Really proud of the guys on the 4 car (Kevin Harvick). They worked really hard to build a team from nothing and the whole company has pitched in and done a great job. It’s great for our company for Kevin to come out and dominate like that.”
What do you tell Danica to pump her back up after a tough start to the season?
“Well, it’s tough. Once we knew our day was pretty much done, we talked about it on the radio. She said herself, ‘We have to be proud of the car we brought today.’ The cars are better than they were last year, they’re faster. She’s more competitive. You’ve got to look at the bright side and pick out the positive parts of the day. When you have bad days, you’ve got to try to find a little glimmer of hope and that’s what we’re hoping to build on. We’re making progress and the good days will come.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine