Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), etched her name in the record books by earning a seventh-place finish in the STP 500. The effort marked her first top-10 of the season and the fifth top-10 of her Sprint Cup career. It also tied Patrick with Janet Guthrie for the most top-10 Sprint Cup finishes by a female driver. A few weeks later, Patrick earned another top-10 result at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and was able to take sole ownership of that record.
For Patrick, it wasn’t the first time she’d made history at Martinsville. In April 2013, she became 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.
In her first start at the short track, Patrick 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, when 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 other name drivers in their Martinsville debuts, most notably her team owner Tony Stewart, who finished 20th in his first Martinsville start in 1999. Six-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.
As Sprint Cup teams return to Martinsville for this weekend’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, Patrick and her No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS team hope to add to their success at the iconic short track.