Practicing Patience at ‘The Action Track’
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Patience. It’s a word Danica Patrick will hear again and again as she and her No. 10 GoDaddy Racing Team tackle Richmond (Va.) International Raceway this weekend for the Richmond 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Perhaps the idea of patience dominating the night’s conversation could be a bit odd at the .75-mile Virginia layout known as “The Action Track,” where attempts to pass cars often lead to frustration, which then turns into beating and banging, and even wrecking. But for Patrick, who will be making just her 55th career Sprint Cup start and her third at Richmond, practicing patience will be the name of the game.
Patrick will lean on the advice doled out from her Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) crew chief Tony Gibson – “Be patient. Focus on you. Race the racetrack. Take what the car and the track will give you all night. If you can do that all night, you’ll end up with a solid finish.”
That’s the same guidance Gibson gave his driver prior to the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. As Patrick continues to learn the racetracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, Gibson says patience and focus are key to improving each time the No. 10 GoDaddy team returns to a racetrack.
Patrick repeated Gibson’s advice over the car radio during the Darlington race. She focused, raced the racetrack and took what the car and track would give her. And when the checkered flag waved, Patrick brought home her green No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS in 22nd place and on the lead lap – her best finish in four starts at the uber-challenging 1.336-mile oval.
This weekend, Patrick & Co. hope that same advice pays off once more.
While Patrick is no stranger to racing at Richmond, her best finishes at the track have come from her efforts in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In five IndyCar starts at the three-quarter-mile oval, Patrick scored four top-10 finishes, including sixth-place results in 2007 and 2008 and a fifth-place finish in 2009. She’s also raced there in three NASCAR Nationwide Series and two previous Sprint Cup events.
Despite her past challenges at Richmond, Patrick is looking forward to Saturday night’s short-track race. She has produced a series of solid performances at the short tracks on the circuit. Last spring, she recorded an impressive 12th-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and followed that up with a 17th-place effort in the fall.
This season, Patrick earned a top-20 finish at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. And while she didn’t get the finish she had hoped for at Martinsville, the No. 10 team did earn its best qualifying effort of the year at the .526-mile oval – a 10th-place starting position.
Patrick will lean on those short-track successes, as well as her performance at Darlington, as she returns to Richmond this weekend. And hopefully, with a little patience, Patrick will continue to improve on the past and score another solid finish come Saturday night.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about heading to Richmond this weekend.
“If anybody has the key to Richmond, please pass it along because I have not figured it out, yet. I haven’t run well at Richmond, yet. I loved going there in IndyCar, and I had good success there, I feel like. I had lots of top-fives there in IndyCar, or at least running consistently in the top-five. It just hasn’t been that way in stock cars. I have a really hard time getting into turn one. I feel like the car is going to spin out the whole time, so I don’t know. Hopefully, this time will be different. I have said in the past when people ask me what my favorite track is, I say ‘Whatever I’ve done well at,’ and I’ve gone from hating to loving a track in one day. So, hopefully, that will be the case at Richmond.”
You had success at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last season, posting a top-12 finish and a top-20 finish. This year, you had a top-10 qualifying effort at Martinsville. How does Richmond compare to the other short tracks we go to in the Cup Series.
“Both ends are different at Richmond. I feel like you drive kind of downhill into turn one, and you kind of drive up and into turn three. It’s getting old so it’s losing grip, and power down and rear traction off the corner is at a premium, so that’s always what we try and figure out how to get.”
Last weekend was the first one of two off weekends the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes, so at the first break in the season, rate your year, so far.
“I really feel like it has been a lot better than last year as far as the race goes, and qualifying, even. It’s been, I feel like, a lot better. It’s still not great but it’s definitely getting better. We started off the year really well in practice and running like top-15 in practice, and Las Vegas was great. We were one of the fastest cars for most of the time we were on track in practice. But that didn’t lead to good results in the race. With getting crashed and not having great races, that kind of puts a damper on the whole weekend. I’ve had other weekends where I’m not running well at all in practice, but then I go out in the race and the car seems to be OK. So, I guess I would rather struggle through the weekend and then have a good race than the other way around. At some point in time, you’ve got to put it all together and you’ve got to run fast, qualify well and run great in the race.”
TONY GIBSON, Crew chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The last race was Darlington and the No. 10 team had a solid finish. How does what the team accomplished at Darlington help heading into Richmond?
“That was awesome. I think we learned a lot from the last time we were at Darlington with Danica, as far as being patient and just what she needed with the car. I think that helped us be more patient. Like I told her, that’s a place where, if you can just be patient and race the racetrack, you’ll end up with a good finish. We fought all night and, as a team, we worked well together – pit stops and everything – so I feel like it was a win for our team. Each week, we build on what we know from last year, and we learn more, and I think we’re able to definitely take positives from each race we’ve run and build on that. I’m really proud of what we accomplished at Darlington, and I think we’re going to have to have that same kind of focus heading into Richmond. It’s another track where I want her to be patient and focus on racing the racetrack and not get caught up in what the other guys are doing because that’s where you’re going to run into problems. She’s run a lot of races at Richmond, but most of those were in IndyCar, and that’s a lot different from how she drives the track in a stock car. A lot of this weekend will be about her leaning on her teammates and talking to them about how they get around the track. I think that’s going to help her a lot more than I might be able to. From our end, we just have to stay focused. It’s not about going out there on the track and beating Jimmie Johnson or beating Tony Stewart. Our focus is to get her on the track and have her be the best Danica Patrick that she can be. And that’s the key for us each week. Danica is still learning, and part of the learning process is learning to be patient and learning how to race the racetrack, and that’s what we’ll be focusing on this weekend at Richmond.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine