After surviving a weekend at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway where temperatures soared above 90 degrees Fahrenheit each day, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams move on to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for Saturday night’s Kentucky 400, where forecasts once again call for temperatures to again reach into the 90s. The hot days of summer are officially here.
While the heat can be a challenge, Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, finds that her intense workout regimen, along with staying hydrated, help prepare her for the extreme temperatures the drivers face in their racecars during this summer stretch.
In addition to the challenges the intense heat presents, when teams arrive at Kentucky Speedway this weekend, they will be faced with even more challenges in the form of the new racing surface and slightly reconfigured track. Since last summer’s race at the 1.5-mile oval, the track has been repaved and it has undergone a change in turns one and two, where the banking was increased from 14 to 17 degrees. In addition, the width of the pit road exit lane has increased and, as a result, the racing surface in those turns is now nearly 20 feet narrower.
So while Patrick has plenty of experience at Kentucky, as she’s competed in a total of 12 events there – three Sprint Cup races, two NASCAR Xfinity Series events and seven IndyCar Series races – she’ll have to throw most of that experience out the window as she faces a virtually new track this weekend.
Patrick’s highest Sprint Cup finish at Kentucky was a 21st-place effort in June 2014. Patrick’s best Xfinity Series result was a 12th-place finish she earned in June 2012. In seven IndyCar races at Kentucky Speedway, she qualified on the pole in 2005, led a total of three laps and earned four top-10 finishes.
Last year, Patrick started 23rd at Kentucky and late-race contact relegated her to a 34th-place result.
As she returns to Kentucky this weekend, Patrick is ready to endure the hot summer days and the challenges the changes at the track present to the race teams in an effort to score a solid finish in Saturday night’s Kentucky 400.