KANNAPOLIS, N.C.– Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway is one of the few tracks on the NASCAR schedule where Danica Patrick has a lot of experience.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has made eight starts at Sonoma dating back to 2005.
Seven of those, however, came in the IndyCar Series and unfortunately won’t offer much assistance to Patrick as she competes in Sunday’s SaveMart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Sonoma.
Her one visit to Sonoma with the Sprint Cup Series last June saw her start 31st and finish 29th. Her only other road-course race in NASCAR’s top series was last August at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, where she started 35th and moved to 20th.
The IndyCar Series utilized two different Sonoma road-course layouts during the seven years Patrick competed there, and neither is identical to the 1.99-mile, 10-turn configuration she will drive on Sunday.
Patrick is hoping her Sprint Cup road-course racing this weekend goes better than her three road-course appearances in Nationwide Series competition in 2012. All three were memorable, if not downright strange.
In the June 2012 Nationwide Series event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Patrick was fourth on the final lap when she was bumped into a gravel trap by Jacques Villeneueve, which caused her to finish 12th. Two months later, Patrick finished 43rd at Watkins Glen after Ryan Truex spun in front of her on the start, and she could not avoid his spinning car and made heavy contact with his machine.
But the strangest Nationwide road-course experience of all came one week later when Patrick led 20 laps and was on the point at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal when a fan threw a shoe onto the track on lap 38 of 81. She couldn’t avoid running over it and, shortly thereafter – whether the shoe caused the problem or not – Patrick was forced to pit for mechanical repairs and finished 27th.
At Sonoma this weekend, Patrick is hoping to run a smooth and clean race, avoid any shoes on course, and build upon a solid 17th-place finish she and the GoDaddy team scored last week at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How excited are you for some road-course racing?
“I’m very comfortable on road courses. I have a lot of fun. We tested at Road Atlanta a few weeks ago with Tony (Stewart). I have a lot of fun. Hopefully, it goes better than last year. The road-course races weren’t very much fun and they weren’t fun to drive. In the Nationwide Series, I had a lot of fun and led races and ran well. Our cars are a lot better this year and hopefully that shows this weekend.”
What is the key to racing at Sonoma?
“I think, at Sonoma, getting through the high-speed esses comfortably, which leads to a good high-speed balance. Power down is also important there because it is easy for the rear tires to just spin all the time. The fast lap times come from the high-speed balance, so that is the key for me and the GoDaddy team.”
What is the hardest part about road racing?
“The hardest part of road racing is just putting a whole lap together. The hardest part of road racing is just nailing every corner and doing it when it counts.”
You competed at Sonoma in an IndyCar. Will that help you at all in a stock car?
“Other than being familiar with the garage and pit lane, no (laughs). The cars are obviously so different that nothing will translate. It’s just such a different style of driving. This also is a slightly different course than what we ran in IndyCar, so nothing really translates. I’m excited to go out to Sonoma, though. I’ve always liked it out there and, hopefully, we can have a great weekend.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine