Finding Success in Fontana
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Earlier this week, the leprechaun was looking for his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
On Sunday, Danica Patrick, who like the leprechaun wears quite a bit of green, will bypass the pot of gold and look to find continued improvement. She’ll do so not at the end of the rainbow, but at the western edge of the Continental United States as she takes part in the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Patrick, driver of the green No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has found her groove in the last two weeks after a rough start the season.
In the first two races, she was involved in accidents not of her making at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and at Phoenix International Raceway and finished 40th and 36th, respectively.
Two weeks ago at Las Vegas, she and the No. 10 team rebounded and were fast most of the weekend. She posted the fifth-fastest lap during Thursday afternoon’s four-hour test session and then was 13th-fastest in Friday practice.
During knockout-style qualifying, Patrick posted the 10th-fastest lap during round one and advanced to round two, where she placed herself 22nd on the starting grid. From there, she continued to raise some eyebrows by turning the sixth-fastest lap in Saturday morning’s practice session and the fastest 10-lap average.
Patrick rolled off 22nd in the race, fell to 30th in the early going and went a lap down, but she fought her way to a respectable 21st-place result.
Last week at Bristol, Patrick overcame a three-hour rain delay, an early race accident not of her making and late-race transmission problems to finish a solid 18th. She did so in a backup car after an accident in her primary car during Friday’s first practice session.
After exiting Phoenix 39th in the championship standings with just 13 points, Patrick has gained 11 spots and finds herself 28th, with 62 points.
On Sunday, Patrick will drive Chassis No. 10-828, the same car she drove at Las Vegas.
Crew chief Tony Gibson, Patrick and the rest of the GoDaddy/Get Found crew are hoping that car will be even faster than at Las Vegas and help them continue to find better finishes.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Overall thoughts on Fontana?
“Fontana’s pavement has not aged gracefully (laughs), so it makes for a challenging race. It’s a challenge to set up the car – the seams move the car around a lot. It’s very fast, yet you still have to get the car to rotate and it seems really tight off of (turn) two. It’s one of the tougher places to get the balance right. But if you do strike a good balance in practice, you have a chance to have a really good day on Sunday. We’re bringing the same car from Vegas, so hopefully we can find the speed we had there and continue to get back on track after a rough start to the year. We’ve had two decent weeks, but we’d like to finish better and hopefully we can do that this week.”
After a rough start to the season, the results have been better the last two weeks. Talk about that.
“We’ve gotten better, but it hasn’t been easy. The GoDaddy/Get Found guys have worked really hard. We had a great car at Vegas and were running good lap times. We just couldn’t get our lap back. At Bristol, we had to go to a backup car and we didn’t qualify well, but the crew did a great job and (Tony) Gibson made some great decisions and we had a fast car for the race. We had the early accident and then, later in the race, we lost all but fourth gear, but it hung on and we got a decent finish out of it. I think we could have had better finishes both times, but we’ll take them. Hopefully we can get even better at Fontana.”
Two races thus far have been affected by rain. How challenging is that for you as a driver?
“It’s tough because you get geared up for a race and then it’s delayed. So you do your best to kill time, but also keep yourself focused. It’s the same thing when rain comes in the middle of the race. The hardest thing is you just don’t know when the race will resume – nobody does, so you have to keep focused and also be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Fortunately, as drivers we have motorhomes to go to – it’s a lot tougher on the crews and it’s really tough on the fans. I’m always impressed by the fans and how they stick it out. It’s not easy when it’s raining and cold, but they stick around. We appreciate it.”
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