As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will be looking to revitalize their performance at the .526-mile oval.
In March 2015, Patrick etched her name in the record books there 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 track, which first opened in 1949.
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.
Her 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. And her SHR teammate Kurt Busch finished 37th in 2000.
All-told, in seven Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville, Patrick has earned one top-10 finish and four top-20s. In April, she started 28th, ran as high as seventh and finished 16th after battling handling issues.
As Sprint Cup teams return to Martinsville for Sunday’s race, Patrick and her No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS team look to rekindle their success at the iconic short track and bring home their first top-10 result of the season.