KANNAPOLIS, NC (WBTV) - Last October, NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and her Kannapolis based Stewart Haas race team managed to get the car to the front of the pack for seven laps at Talladega, and now she's hoping to improve on that statistic, as well as improve on her career best finish of 13 in 2012 at the massive Alabama racetrack.
In a preview provided to WBTV, Patrick talked about what she hopes to accomplish and why this race is so important.
This is a race weekend Danica Patrick has circled on her calendar.
While many drivers are not fond of the extremely tight packs of cars that dominate the racing action at restrictor-plate tracks like Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Patrick freely admits she enjoys this style of racing.
And why shouldn't she? It's the kind of racing where she has enjoyed great success in her brief NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
In her first-ever Daytona 500 start in February 2013, she won the pole position to become the first woman ever to claim the top spot for a Sprint Cup race. She stayed out of trouble for the remainder of Speedweeks and ran in the top-three for much of the Daytona 500 before dropping from third to eighth on the final lap.
She rewrote some of the NASCAR record book en route to her eighth-place finish that day, which is the highest finishing position ever by a woman in the "Great American Race."
In addition to her history-making pole run and finish in the Daytona 500, Patrick also led five laps – 90 to 91 and 127 to 129 – to become the first female to lead NASCAR's most prestigious race and the first woman to lead Sprint Cup laps under green. Janet Guthrie led five laps under caution in 1977 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.
By leading laps in the Daytona 500, Patrick joined an elite club of only 14 drivers to have led both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. The other drivers to accomplish the feat are A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Bobby Allison, Jim Hurtubise, Johnny Rutherford, Tim Richmond, John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, A.J. Allmendinger and Tony Stewart. Of those drivers, only Patrick, Foyt, Andretti, Gordon, Montoya and Stewart have led at least five laps in each race.
Patrick's eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500, coupled with her six top-10 finishes in the Indianapolis 500, make her one of only 17 drivers to have top-10 results in each race. The other drivers are Foyt, Montoya, Gordon, Rutherford, Stewart, Andretti, Unser, Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Bobby Johns, Cale Yarborough, Dan Gurney, Donnie Allison, Jerry Grant, Paul Goldsmith and Tom Sneva.
She hasn't had the same results in her Sprint Cup starts at Talladega – finishing a career-best 19th in last October's event at the track. But it still should come as no surprise that Patrick is looking forward to Sunday's Geico 500 at Talladega, the second points-paying restrictor-plate race of the season.
Patrick's No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS is sporting a different look for Talladega. You'll see the hashtag #SmallBizForce on the hood and roof of the car along with the message "Happy Small Business Week" on the decklid in honor of Small Business Week, which kicks off Monday, May 4. GoDaddy is a champion for small businesses and is using the hashtag to direct people to GoDaddy.com/Force where they can learn about sci-fi related small businesses.
With a style of racing that she loves, Patrick and the No. 10 team will have all eyes on the prize at Talladega this weekend as they hope to rewrite the history books once again.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You've run well at the superspeedways. Even if you have been caught up in incidents, you have been consistently in the top-10 throughout each race. Is your confidence level higher at these types of racetracks?
"I don't know if the confidence level shifts a tremendous amount as much as the comfort level does. Just being comfortable on these big speedways and comfortable with this pack-style racing that I was so used to in IndyCar on the ovals. Just having a feel for it. It's something that I probably caught on to quicker than anything in stock car racing. I guess I show up there and it's just a little bit more comfortable."
You've always liked going to Talladega. Why is that?
"The fans really make that place. The campgrounds – all that stuff makes it one, big party. You see how much fun the fans are having and that makes it fun for us as drivers. It's just a unique place. The sheer size of the facility is amazing. I liked it from the first time I went there and, hopefully, we can have a good run and a good finish. The cool thing about superspeedways is that anybody can win. It's a toss-up, what's going to happen. So, that's why it's fun for me because somebody like me has a chance. On top of that, SHR's superspeedway cars are really good."
What is your favorite part of going into the Talladega infield?