The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took last weekend off but the circus continues with a stop at Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday evening. Danica Patrick is looking to end her recent cold streak, she hasn’t finished better than 22nd in her last three races, with a solid showing at Richmond.
Despite the recent slump Patrick is showing optimism and maintains that the team has made progress from last year
“I really feel like it has been a lot better than last year as far as the race goes, and qualifying, even,” Patrick said in an April 22 report. “It’s been, I feel like, a lot better. It’s still not great but it’s definitely getting better. We started off the year really well in practice and running like top-15 in practice, and Las Vegas was great. We were one of the fastest cars for most of the time we were on track in practice. But that didn’t lead to good results in the race.”
Unfortunately Patrick’s feeling are not backed up by the cold reality of statistics.
After eight races in 2013 Patrick was 26th in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings and she scored a pair of Top-15 finishes. She was also on the pole for the Daytona 500.
In 2014, after eight-races, Patrick is 29th in the standings and has a pair of Top-20 finishes. Her best qualifying effort was 10th at the short track Martinsville
This weekend the NSCS makes a stop at another short track, Richmond, and Danica hopes to repeat her qualifying effort from Martinsville. But the only thing Richmond and Martinsville share are their respective diminutive size. Driving Richmond takes a strategy unto itself.
“Both ends are different at Richmond,” Patrick said in a recent report. “I feel like you drive kind of downhill into turn one, and you kind of drive up and into turn three. It’s getting old so it’s losing grip, and power down and rear traction off the corner is at a premium, so that’s always what we try and figure out how to get.”
Danica ran five-races at Richmond during her tenure in the IndyCar Series. Her best qualifying effort was 8th in 2007. She finished 6th in 2007 and 2008. In 2009 she finished 5th.
Overall she had four Top 10 finishes at Richmond while racing in the IndyCar Series. Patrick’s crew chief Tony Gibson doesn’t believe that Danica’s IndyCar success will translate to NASCAR.
“It’s another track where I want her to be patient and focus on racing the racetrack and not get caught up in what the other guys are doing because that’s where you’re going to run into problems, “Gibson said. “She’s run a lot of races at Richmond, but most of those were in IndyCar, and that’s a lot different from how she drives the track in a stock car. A lot of this weekend will be about her leaning on her teammates and talking to them about how they get around the track.”
A strong showing at Richmond could turn the season around for the Scottsdale, Arizona resident. A win would shut up a lot of her detractors and maybe put the feud between her and Richard Petty to rest.
What many Danica detractors may not realize, or chose to ignore, is that she the most important driver in NASCAR. She represents the simple fact that women can race at the highest levels of competition. That you don’t have to be guy to succeed in motor sports.
Without Danica Sue Patrick there is no diversity in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Without diversity NASCAR will continue to sink and see their fan base dwindle even more.
“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.” — Catherine Pulsifer