Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) travel to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – a track where anything can happen – for Sunday’s Geico 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Talladega has long been considered a bit of a wild-card race, where a driver’s fate is not entirely in his or her own hands. It is one of only two racetracks on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit where restrictor plates are used. A restrictor plate is a device installed at the air intake of an engine to limit its power in an effort to reduce speeds, increase safety and help provide an equal level of competition. The horsepower-restricted engines require drivers to draft together, side-by-side, at speeds approaching 200 mph.
As a result, superspeedway events often produce wild, unpredictable racing.
“The cool thing about superspeedways is that anybody can win,” Patrick said. “It’s a toss-up, what’s going to happen.”
And that toss-up always includes the distinct possibility of the seemingly inevitable “big one” – a multicar accident that typically eliminates multitudes of drivers from the event. This type of racing leaves teams wondering what it will take to survive the “big one” and make it to victory lane at the end of the day.
While Patrick has set records at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the other restrictor-plate superspeedway on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule – she’s yet to find the same level of success at Talladega. With eight prior starts at the track, her career-best finish is a 19th-place effort she earned in October 2014. Last year, a late-race accident left her with a 24th-place result in May and, when the series returned to the track in October, she finished 20th.
Patrick enters this weekend at Talladega fresh off of an 18th-place result at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The effort marked the team’s second-best finish of the season and first top-20 result since the March 5 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
As the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega this weekend, Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford team will be ready to survive the “big one” and go for the win on Sunday.