When Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Brickyard 400, (Back Home Again in) Indiana, the song performed prior to the Indianapolis 500 each year since 1946, will be a welcoming tune for Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
While Patrick was born in Beloit, Wisconsin and raised in the town of Roscoe, Illinois, when she returns to Indianapolis, it’s a homecoming of sorts after years of success at Indy as she competed in the Indianapolis 500 from 2005 to 2011.
“I think the best thing about coming back is that it feels familiar and it feels comfortable,” Patrick said. “We spent so much time there during the month of May that it becomes like a second home, almost. It’s not like the Indy 500 was a three-day show. You spent just about the entire month there. My parents live outside of Indy, as do my sister and her family, so it’s nice to come back.”
Patrick burst onto the scene at Indy in May 2005, when 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 historic 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 during the month – more than any other driver – including Pole Day and Carburetion Day.
Patrick’s practice lap of 229.880 mph on Pole Day was the fastest of any driver during the month and the fastest turned by any woman in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During her qualification attempt, Patrick made an impressive save as her car bobbled in turn one on her first lap, earning her rave reviews for her car control by longtime Speedway observers. She ended up qualifying fourth, the best-ever starting position for a woman in the race.
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.
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 500.
While Patrick has earned history-making results at Indianapolis in her IndyCar career, she has yet to experience the same level of success at the 2.5-mile track in a stock car. In her first NASCAR Cup Series start at the track in 2013, she finished 30th and, in 2014, her day at the iconic track was cut short by rear-gear issues and she ended up 42nd. In 2015, Patrick was running 13th with less than 15 laps to go but lost considerable ground on the final two restarts and finished 27th. Last year, Patrick scored her highest stock car finish at the track when she took the checkered flag in the 22nd position.
In Patrick’s lone Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis in 2012, she finished 35th after getting caught up in an accident.
Patrick returns to Indianapolis this week on the heels of scoring back-to-back top-15 finishes. Riding that momentum, Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford team hope her past success in the 500 will finally carry over to the Brickyard 400 so they can bring home a solid finish.