KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Danica Patrick, crew chief Tony Gibson and the GoDaddy team have already worked a full day at the track this work week.
After three days of racing at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, they returned Monday to the 2-mile oval with nine other cars for a 2015 NASCAR rules test. The all-day test was held to work on potential rules for the upcoming season and beyond.
The team headed back to the Charlotte area Monday night and now prepare for the Irwin Tools Night Race Saturday evening at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Patrick has raced four times at Bristol in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and has steadily improved her finishing positon with each outing. She finished 29th in just her fourth Sprint Cup race in August 2012, but that was hampered by an accident not of her making.
After starting 43rd due to qualifying being rained out, Patrick calmly moved her way through the field and was in the top-20 and on the lead lap with 66 laps remaining when her car was hit by another and contacted the SAFER Barrier on the inside retaining wall of the frontstretch.
She finished 28th in March 2013 and then 26th last August. This past March, she finished 18th, her best yet.
It was the same way with Patrick in the Nationwide Series as she finished 33rd in her first Bristol race, 19th in the second and a career-best ninth in her final race in August 2012.
She will look for a good run this week with the experienced Gibson guiding her.
His experience goes so far back, he was the car chief for Alan Kulwicki when they won the final Bristol race on asphalt in April 1992 before it was changed to concrete.
Both are hoping for their best finish yet at the “Last Great Colosseum.”
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Overall thoughts on Bristol?
“I’ve liked Bristol since I went there the first time. I remember when I set foot onto that track, it was the day before, it was load-in day and I looked out there and you’re standing on the straightaway, but it sure seems like a corner. It’s a very cool track and a spectacle for the fans. I feel like it’s always the one that everyone says, ‘I want to come see a Bristol race.’ It’s always entertaining there for the fans and, hopefully, we can put on another good show for them this week.”
Can you talk about your early impressions of the rules test at Michigan with the rear gear change and then the aerodynamic changes?
“I don’t think the first change, with the rear gear, was that big of change. Maybe in more of a race situation, it would have shown a little bit more getting back to speed or after a mistake, but I didn’t notice much. And then with the extra downforce, it was only like a tenth slower than the other way, with a couple hundred pounds more downforce, so you’re going that much faster in the corners and so it’s just a lot less lifting and generally much more easier to drive. But I think we’ve got good progress and they will figure it out for sure. It was good to be part of it.”
How do you think the testing has gone so far with the potential rule changes?
“I think there are two ends of the spectrum that work. There is the speedway style of racing flat out and there it is easy to drive, and we are bunched up. But I don’t think it’s fair to have all of our racing like that. I know it’s entertaining when we do go to speedways, but I think you need tracks that are all about getting your car really fast. The other end of it is when your car really slides around and moves around a lot, and tracks like Atlanta and Homestead, when you slide around, it creates opportunities for passing. We need to figure out how to get the cars to transition from the beginning to the end of the run because that is what is going to create passing. Making it easier to drive is going to make it like a speedway.”
TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about Bristol at night versus the day race.
“There’s always a little more grip at night than there is during the daytime. That’s one good thing. The bad side is, when the lights come on, it gets a little crazier (laughs). The cars will just have more overall grip. The groove will probably move up a little more, too. It tends to get tighter as it goes on into the night. The key is just track position because everyone is going to fight the same issues. We had a good race there in the spring. We actually wrecked the primary car, but the backup was pretty good and we got where we needed to go. Hopefully, we can get better this time and improve even more.”
What is your favorite memory of Bristol?
“I’d say it’s when we won the last asphalt race with Alan (Kulwicki). We led a bunch of it but had a flat tire and went two laps down. We came back through and got our laps back under green and won. When we pulled into victory lane, the right-rear tire was going flat. That race was pretty crazy because we were trying to win the last race on asphalt and got it done. To go through all that and get a flat tire and still win is pretty cool.”
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