17 October 2014
NASCAR Sprint Cup Talladega: Danica hopes for superspeedway boost
Stewart-Haas Racing's Danica Patrick is hoping that this weekend's visit to Talladega Superspeedway will yield her best result yet of the year.
There's something about going restrictor plate racing that seems to suit Danica Patrick, and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is hoping that this will help her deliver a strong result for the team in this weekend's visit to Talladega Superspeedway.
She'll be using the same chassis that took her to pole position for the 2013 Daytona 500, becoming the first woman in NASCAR history to start a Sprint Cup race at the front of the field. The same car also saw her start from seventh place in this year's sprint race at Talladega, and was then used again at Daytona in the summer where she finished an impressive eighth when the race was called due to rain. So what's the secret of her success on NASCAR's longest tracks?
"I don't know if the confidence level shifts a tremendous amount as much as the comfort level does," said Patrick this week. "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 is 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."
Inevitably, superspeedway racing also means a high risk of getting caught up in some huge wrecks and that's happened to Patrick at both Daytona and Talladega in the past. But if she can stay out of trouble then she stands a good chance of beating her best-ever finish in the Cup series of sixth place at Atlanta in August.
"When we talk superspeedway racing, there's a lot of luck involved," Patrick admitted. I feel like I've learned some lessons about the draft and how that unfolds at the end if you are in the right place at the right time.
"There are a lot of people who have a good chance of winning Talladega, I think. Hopefully, we are one of them at the end of the race. But, we won't know that until the end of the race."
Patrick's crew chief Tony Gibson was certainly optimistic going into this weekend's GEICO 500 race on Sunday afternoon at the 2.66-mile track in Alabama.
"I think our best shot of winning a race is going to be a restrictor plate race," he said. "She runs well there and, obviously, now we have more team mates at Stewart-Haas who are really good restrictor plate racers who could help in a situation and be a good drafting partner.
"Our odds are up now because we have more team mates to draft with," he pointed out, with SHR now consisting of a four-car line-up with Patrick racing alongside Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and team co-owner Tony Stewart. "If we get separated, there are three other team mates and we could pick up one or two of those and get back to the front. It helps all of us.
"I feel if we can get at least two or three of our Stewart-Haas cars in the top-ten coming to the final couple of laps, we've got a shot of winning the race because we have team mates. I feel like our odds are pretty good going into Talladega."
Racing aside, Patrick said that she enjoyed going to Talladega so much largely because of the atmosphere that the place generated every year.
"The fans really make that place, the campgrounds – all that stuff makes it one, big party," she aid. "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," she added.
"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."
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