|Danica Patrick was 12th in the spring, and held her own on tough track|
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), etched her name in the record books by being the first female driver to compete in a Sprint Cup race at the .526-mile oval. And what a history Martinsville has considering it opened for business in 1947, two years before NASCAR was formed. Every NASCAR champion has raced there and the Sprint Cup Series has conducted events at Martinsville twice a year since 1950.
But Patrick did more than drive in the April race. She surprised many NASCAR observers with a solid 12th-place result – made more impressive by the fact she started 43rd after an engine change before the race. She looked like a veteran on the shortest track on the circuit which, viewed from the air, looks like a paperclip as its long straightaways lead into tight, flat turns. The racing there can be described as “give-and-take,” with drivers giving some bumps and taking some bumps as 43 cars fight for space on its tight confines.
None of that seemed to be an issue for Patrick, whose impressive rookie performance bested those of some other name drivers in their Martinsville debuts, most notably her team owner Tony Stewart, who finished 20th in his first Martinsville start in 1999. Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished 35th in his Martinsville debut in 2002. NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace finished 15th in 1984. Dale Jarrett finished 14th in 1984. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 26th in 2000. Kyle Busch finished 39th in 2005. Matt Kenseth finished 21st in 2000. Kurt Busch finished 37th in 2000. And Fred Lorenzen finished 24th in 1956.
Nearly six months after Patrick’s Martinsville debut, she hopes to enjoy the same – if not more – success in her second trip to the historic track for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. She and crew chief Tony Gibson will utilize the same chassis, No. 10-535, in their efforts to earn another solid result.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about going from the biggest track on the circuit, Talladega, to Martinsville, the smallest track on the circuit.
“Two extremes going from Talladega to the short track. I had a great car in the spring at Martinsville, so the challenge for me this time around will be to not downshift from fourth to third when I come out of the pits and over-rev the engine (in practice) and have to start from the back and, in general, just have a better qualifying run so I can start further up and work from there. It’s a short track and those leaders are on you very quickly if you don’t have a good qualifying run. Qualify better and let it play out from there.”
You had a great run in the spring at Martinsville. Talk about that.
“Having never been at Martinsville before, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that it was going to be a little bit crazy. I think you take what the car gives you. Tony Gibson (crew chief) has a really good track record there. He’s a great crew chief. And my car was pretty good all day. We kind of bounced around from being a little loose to a little tight, but we got the GoDaddy Chevy back up there. People talk about the race result but a lot of the time forget that we spun early and were two laps down at one point in time. So, I feel like that’s almost one of the things I’m most proud of is coming back from two laps down to being on the lead lap and then grabbing a 12th place at the end.”
This is the first year for the Gen-6 Chevrolet SS. Talk about the new style of car for NASCAR and how you feel it has performed this year.
“I think it’s been a successful year for the car. I feel like there have been very few issues. It’s just a different balance of a car. I think it suited some driving styles better than others, probably, but I think it really comes down to, as we felt and saw as a team to start the year off, that you’ve got to bring the best cars possible. I feel like we started a little bit behind but have rapidly throughout the year been learning and understanding the car better and better. What is hard is everyone else does that, too, to some degree, but I think it’s going to give us a lot of knowledge going into the offseason for what we need to work on to arrive with better cars next year.”
TONY GIBSON, Crew chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve been racing in the Sprint Cup Series for a long time. Talk about the historic significance of Martinsville.
“It’s one of those places where there’s a lot of history. It’s like Darlington, where it’s been around forever. It makes or breaks a lot of racecar drivers. When you go into a place like that, you don’t want it to be a bad experience. You want to have a positive experience and be part of the history, not part of the negative history. I enjoy going there and racing where some of the greats have raced.”
Talk about Danica’s race in the spring at Martinsville.
“I never dreamed it would go that well. I knew after Saturday and Friday that we had a good GoDaddy Chevrolet. I knew she was capable of doing it speed-wise and as far as driving. To be able to go through all that beating and banging and survive and finish 12th was unbelievable. I knew that with 30 laps to go the restarts were going to get more and more aggressive, and that’s why I told her it’s not going to get any easier. I was really, really happy to see how aggressive she got. You know, being able to be on the defensive. They would bump her and she wouldn’t get flustered. I was really, really impressed with that. That was the biggest thing I was nervous about – how she would do in a situation like that. It helped her gain some confidence.”
- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing