The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend has long been a special day for racing enthusiasts around the world. Considered by many as the “Greatest Day in Motorsports,” it starts with the Grand Prix of Monaco, where Formula One drivers navigate through the streets of Monte Carlo. That’s followed by the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the day closes with the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Racing on Memorial Day weekend is nothing new for Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), as she’s done it at the professional level for many years. For seven years, Patrick competed in the 500-mile race at Indianapolis, and on Sunday Patrick will make her sixth start in the Coca-Cola 600.
In the seven years Patrick competed in the IndyCar Series, nowhere did she perform better than in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” In May 2005, she stunned the world by leading three times for 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first “500” – becoming the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the iconic race.
She set numerous records during her Indy 500 debut and set the tone early when she posted the fastest lap on the opening day of practice. She went on to set the fastest practice lap five times throughout the month, including Pole Day and Carburetion Day. On race day, with 11 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, Patrick blew past leader Dan Wheldon and held the point until lap 194, when she was forced to slow down in order to conserve fuel to make it to the finish. Her efforts earned her Rookie of the Year honors.
All told, Patrick scored six top-10 finishes in seven starts at Indianapolis and qualified 10th or better five times. Her third-place result in 2009 is the best finish ever for a woman in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
For the sixth consecutive year, however, Memorial Day weekend will be different for Patrick, as she’ll watch the Indy 500 on television as she prepares to race in the Coca-Cola 600.
When Patrick hits the track this weekend, her No. 10 Ford will carry the colors of Code 3 Associates, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to providing professional animal disaster response and resources to communities, as well as administering professional training to individuals and agencies involved in animal-related law enforcement and emergency response. Its mission is accomplished through hands-on animal rescue and care operations during disaster events in the United States and Canada, and through certified animal welfare training seminars, which include animal cruelty training for investigators.
While Patrick’s best result in the Coca-Cola 600 is a 21st-place effort she earned last May, her best finish at the track is an 11th-place result she scored last October in the Bank of America 500.
Entering Sunday’s race, Patrick and the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford team hope to improve on last fall’s performance at Charlotte and close out the night celebrating the “Greatest Day in Motorsports” with an ice-cold Coca-Cola.