Danica Patrick prepared for Darlington; 2nd Sprint Cup start

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Saturday night, “The Lady in Green,” Danica Patrick, driver of the green No.10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, will meet “The Lady in Black” for the very first time when she competes in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 Sprint Cup race at Darlington.

Last week Danica held a late lead at Talladega on Saturday, and remained in the top 10 inside 30 laps to go, but fell off to finish 13th. She also made news for her dust-up with Sam Hornish Jr., bumping him and sending him into the wall.

Patrick, who has never been to Darlington, will also compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at the 1.366-mile oval before competing in just her second-ever Sprint Cup race the next night.

Her first Sprint Cup start came in February’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, where she finished a disappointing 38th, having completed only 138 of 202 laps after being caught in an accident not of her making on the third lap.

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She’ll hope to fare better in the 367-lap race Saturday night, but she knows that just getting seat time and experience at the Sprint Cup level is most important as she continues her transition from IndyCar to NASCAR.

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet:

What are your overall thoughts heading to Darlington and your second Sprint Cup Series start?

“I’m told it’s not going to be so much about the track and getting comfortable and getting up to speed or feeling good, that it’s going to be more about learning how to pass there and how that works because it’s one lane and one groove. I believe it’s high in (turns) one and two and low in (turns) three and four. Just going to two-wide in one and two can cost you a second a lap, so it’s a matter of being smart about when you’re supposed to let off and give the position up for the sake of overall time. Getting used to that is going to be the hardest thing. Other than that, it’s a new track for me, so feeling out the rhythm of the race is going to be another challenge.”

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You announced in January that you will not compete in the Indianapolis 500 and, instead, compete in the Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. It’s now May. What are your thoughts on that?

“I’m sure it will be a little strange. I’m sure I’ll be paying attention – I love Indy. I’m confident it will work out in the future. But I loved the three weeks of Indy, so when they cut it down to two weeks, I was disappointed. I tried to talk everyone into going back to three weeks. But I have a feeling my plate’s going to be full, and I’ll be well-distracted with lots of NASCAR racing and flying all over the country during May and ending up in Charlotte for Memorial Day weekend. I’m excited to see how NASCAR does Memorial Day weekend. I know how it’s done in IndyCar, how to honor the day and what it really means about people serving our country. So I’m excited to see how NASCAR does it.”

You’ve been to just about every track except for Darlington. With that, what style of track have you enjoyed going to?

“I like Daytona- and Talladega-style racing. I really do. It reminds me a lot of IndyCar racing because you’re flat out, looking for air, trying to stay with the pack and trying to weave your way though. It’s like I described it in IndyCar – it’s a high-speed chess match. I’m used to it; I like it. It’s not about the speed; it’s about the style. Outside of that, I think the mile-and-a-halves are probably my favorites just because I feel like more happens and it’s a little bit more in your control where, at places like Daytona and Talladega, it’s out of your control and it’s difficult to avoid big accidents, at times. So, I prefer the mile-and-a-halves, I suppose, at this point. The really high-banked, high-gripped mile-and-a-halves have been my favorite thus far. But, then again, they’ve been the ones where I’ve done the best.”

Do you watch the Sprint Cup Series races you don’t compete in?

“I do. I watch as many as I can. Sometimes I have commitments, but I watch as many as I can because it’s good to pick up things that I see for the future.”

Can you talk about Tony Stewart since you both have experience in IndyCar racing?

“We don’t talk a lot about IndyCar and NASCAR. They’re very different worlds. I think it’s nice that I know he has the reference and can understand where I’m coming from, perhaps, with some feelings and certain ways I describe the car. But we don’t speak specifically about Indy cars because of the difference in cars. So, for me, it’s nice to have a guy like Tony, who is confident and will help me and give me answers and be honest and want to see me get better. And the IndyCar references are just nice from a background standpoint that he understands what I’m talking about.”

 

A lot of the attention has been on your relationship with Tony Stewart. Can you talk about working with Ryan Newman?

“For me, with Ryan, he’s been really kind to me over the years – especially the last couple of years in NASCAR. He’s commented a couple of times to me. Stopped and chatted about doing a good job out there and how’s it going. General curiosity. So I get along great with Ryan. We were actually just talking about some charity stuff, too, with dogs. I know he does a lot with animals. I share the same views as Krissie (Newman, his wife), apparently. So I think I’ll probably sit down and talk with her about that. But I really like him. I think the team, as a whole, is going to have a lot of fun.”

Notes of Interest:

 

  • The Bojangles’ Southern 500 will mark Danica Patrick’s second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. Her first came in February’s rain-delayed 54th Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where she finished 38th having completing only 138 of 202 laps after being involved in a multi-car accident not of her making on lap three.

 

  • Friday night’s VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race will be Patrick’s first NASCAR start of any kind at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

 

  • Patrick has career totals of one top-five finish, four top-10s, 21 laps led and one pole in 33 career Nationwide Series races.

 

  • In 2012 Nationwide Series competition, Patrick has one pole (Daytona) and a best finish of eighth, which came in April at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

 

  • Four Score: In March 2011, Patrick finished fourth in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the best-ever finish by a woman in a NASCAR national stock-car series, topping a fifth-place run by Sarah Christian in a Sprint Cup race in 1949 at Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway.

 

  • History Maker: Patrick became the first woman to win a major-league open-wheel race in a North American series in April 2009 by winning the IZOD IndyCar Series Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan.

 

  • Point Taken: In 2009, Patrick finished fifth in IZOD IndyCar Series points, the best finish ever for a woman in the series.

 

    • Big Stage: In seven Indianapolis 500 starts, Patrick finished in the top-10 six times, including a third-place result in 2009, the best finish ever for a woman in the historic race.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, MSN, and Fox Sports A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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