This is a race 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 her most 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 13 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 16 drivers to have top-10 results in each race. The other drivers are Foyt, Montoya, Gordon, Rutherford, Stewart, Andretti, Unser, Allmendinger, Bobby Johns, Cale Yarborough, Dan Gurney, Donnie Allison, Jerry Grant, Paul Goldsmith and Tom Sneva.
This weekend, Patrick’s No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will once again be Chassis No. 10-758, the same car she used for her history-making run in last year’s Daytona 500. It’s also the same car she used in both Talladega races last season and in this year’s Sprint Unlimited non-points race at Daytona, where she finished 16th after getting caught up in a multicar accident.
She hasn’t had the same results in her two Sprint Cup starts at Talladega – finishing 33rd in both thanks to a multicar crash in the spring race and an untimely pit miscue in the fall race after running in the top-10 all day. But it still should come as no surprise that Patrick is looking forward to Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, the second points-paying restrictor-plate race of the season.
Patrick’s No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet is sporting a different look for Talladega this year. You’ll see the GoDaddy “Peeker” logo, which is usually on the side of the bright green car, adorning the hood this weekend.
With a proven car beneath her and 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.