KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – It is difficult to believe, but just two months ago the first Pocono (Pa.) Raceway NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race took place. And this week it’s time for part two with the GoBowling.com 400 Sunday at the 2.5-mile triangle.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), hasn’t had the best results at Pocono with a best finish of 29th in her first race in June 2013. She finished 35th and 37th in her last two races there, but one needs to dig a little deeper to see she could be poised for a great finish with a little luck.
Last July, she was running a respectable 18th when she was involved in a multicar crash in the tunnel turn and ended up 35th. She was poised for a solid top-20 finish before the crash occurred.
Two months ago, she 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 finished 37th in the race, two laps down, after repairs had to be made.
Patrick and crew chief Tony Gibson are hoping this week will be the one when a good finish finally comes to fruition, and they’ll be bringing a familiar car. Chassis No. 10-849 worked rather well last week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so the GoDaddy team is getting it ready for a rare second race in a row.
At Indianapolis, Patrick qualified 14th and was in the top-15 all day before the rear locker broke after a lap-68 pit stop, causing her to finish 42nd. While the finish was disappointing, Gibson and his crew got the car back Monday morning and immediately began preparing for a similar 2.5-mile track in Pocono.
They are hoping their hard work will finally lead to a solid finish come Sunday.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Overall thoughts on Pocono?
“It’s a neat place, definitely a unique track. It’s still a place I don’t have a ton of experience at. I know Tony Gibson has won there a couple of times and does a good job setting up the car. 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.”
You are bringing back last weekend’s Indianapolis racecar to Pocono. Talk about that.
“It was a good chassis and it handled well at Indy, so we decided to bring it to Pocono. I know the guys are working hard to get it turned around and I appreciate that. Hopefully, we’ll have a good run. We’ve run well in the past. We just need to finish better.”
Back at media tour and media day, there was so much conversation about this team and the four big personalities and how everybody was going to get along. It seems like, at this juncture of the season, it’s been a total nonstory. Can you address the chemistry there?
“I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be a story. It was more of an interesting story from the beginning that wasn’t going to materialize. I feel like, with all of our personalities, while we’re strong, we’re not necessarily strong at each other. We’re just strong personalities and have opinions but, more than anything, we all want to do well and get better. For sure, in my position, I’m lucky to be with guys who have so much experience I can learn from. You know, you get a lot of really constructive progress and constructive criticism along the way, and everybody can get better and everybody wants to get better. So, when everybody wants to get better and they’re not defensive, then it all goes – it’s all just to get better and everybody knows that. I think that’s why you’ve seen an improvement in our team this year and everything from top to bottom is just a little bit better – better communication – and it shows.”
How have your teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch impacted you this year? Have they helped you out quite a bit?
“Kevin is probably someone who’s helped the most. He’s just able to put things in terms and ways and words that I understand and I’m able to put them to use. Kurt has been helpful, as well, but Kevin the most, and it helps. It just helps. Little things like when you get up to speed, are you flat out around (turns) three and four, and what are some of your tricks when it gets tight or gets loose, or where is there a little extra grip on the track. So they both are helpful. They’re all helpful. Tony is, too, but I think, above all of them, Kevin is probably the best at teaching. I don’t think everyone has the gift and I don’t think I do, but he’s pretty good at it.”
We hear so much about rookies getting experience. Halfway through your sophomore season, what has changed for you in the car? What’s different for you and the team overall this year compared to what you went through last year?
“It’s a good question. I really think just the experience in the car is helping me feel what’s happening more, and so it leaves less options for the crew chief to make changes when you can be more specific about what the car is doing. And then your progress on the weekend tends to be better. I also think just getting up to speed quicker from the get‑go also helps in not doing a big circle with the setup. Usually, if you’re not driving hard enough at the beginning of practice when you first hit the track, you are loose. And then, as soon as you get more confident and you’re driving in harder, all of a sudden you’re tight again. And, what do you know? You’re right back where you started but you’re a session behind, now. I think getting up to speed and then also just being able to identify a little bit better, and I mean a little bit better. I don’t mean – I have a lot to learn and a lot of progress to still make on being able to feel the little things about the car I need to help even more, but I think those two things are really helpful overall on our weekends and help us to be more methodical and fine‑tune the car.”
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