When NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams visit Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355k at The Glen, they will be competing on a newly repaved track surface and dealing with all of the unknowns that a fresh surface can present.
Following last year’s event, the facility underwent a complete repave, the first since 1989. In addition to resurfacing the track, workers installed new concrete on pit road and new concrete rumble strips in the turns, as well as other facility upgrades.
While Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has plenty of experience at Watkins Glen, only four starts have come in NASCAR – three in Sprint Cup and one in the Xfinity Series.
Six of Patrick’s starts at The Glen came in the IndyCar Series and unfortunately won’t offer much assistance. As if the incredible difference between a stock car and an Indy car weren’t enough, the IndyCar Series used the longer version of the Watkins Glen road circuit, which includes the famous “boot” portion of the track. Her performances were OK – her best start was seventh in 2009 and her best finish was eighth in 2006.
Patrick did compete in the 2012 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen, but she finished 43rd after Ryan Truex spun in front of her at the start. She could not avoid his spinning car and made heavy contact with his machine.
In three starts at Watkins Glen in Sprint Cup competition, Patrick finished 17th last year, 21st in 2014 and 20th in 2013. Last August, she started 22nd and, despite battling transmission issues throughout the event, was able to still score a 17th-place finish. In 2014, she started 43rd in the team’s backup car due to an accident in practice and managed to gain 22 positions during the race, even though the car sustained damage during a lap-57 accident. The previous year, she started 35th and twice managed to avoid multicar accidents en route to a 20th-place finish.
Despite the unknowns the newly repaved track presents as the Sprint Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen this weekend, Patrick is ready for much better results and hopefully can gain the best road-course finish of her career.