Danica Patrick has scored her career best finish after entering Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After six consecutive races in which Danica Patrick failed to crack the top 15 in the final rundown, she seemingly come out of nowhere to deliver a career-best sixth-place finish in Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500.
Starting 27th on the 43-car grid, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver methodically marched her way forward, and thanks to some key adjustments from crew chief Tony Gibson, was in position to possibly earn her first Sprint Cup win – and with it a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Lining up fourth and in the non-preferred outside line on the second of two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, Danica Patrick lost two positions over the final two laps to come sixth – but it was still her best finish in 71 career Sprint Cup starts.
“It was a long night,” said Danica Patrick, whose best finish prior to Sunday was a seventh-place finish at Kansas Speedway in mid-May.
Danica Patrick has scored her career best finish after entering Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway
“Man, that race felt like it was 700 miles. Sometimes when you are running well they feel like that because you are hoping it stays there, keeps going well, and you keep improving and don’t lose it. There were definitely a couple of times late in the race when we fell back. In the middle of the race the car was very good. We took a little step back, and then it came back in the end. Tony Gibson just reset everything to where we were when we were running well.”
Fast pit work by Danica Patrick’s No. 10 crew moved her up to seventh after all the leaders hit pit road following a caution brought out when Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. tangled on Lap 324, setting up the first green-white checkered attempt.
“Obviously the pit stop at the end that was 11 seconds was so good,” Danica Patrick said.
“There were a couple of rough ones in the beginning but that one made up for it because it put us seventh on that restart, and we had a good line on the inside and didn’t get caught up on the outside.”
Danica Patrick climbed three spots when Kevin Harvick’s dominant No. 4 Chevrolet got sandwiched between Paul Menard and Joey Logano, hitting the wall and setting up what would be the last restart.
Despite slipping to sixth over the final two laps, Danica Patrick couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome – and was already harboring high hopes for next weekend’s regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, a track she doesn’t consider a favorite.
“I am just so happy for the team,” said Danica Patrick, who recorded her third top-10 finish of the season after posting just one top-10 last year as a Sprint Cup Series rookie.
Danica Patrick revealed she is the aunt of a baby girl, Reese, who was born in January to her younger sister, Brooke.
Speaking during her scheduled media availability on July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick admitted she just can’t resist digging into her pocketbook when it comes to the clothing needs of her new niece.
“Reese is really cute – my sister’s little girl,” Danica Patrick said.
Danica Patrick admitted she just can’t resist digging into her pocketbook when it comes to the clothing needs of her new niece (photo Getty Images)
“She was here today and she was dressed in one of the … expensive gifts, in one of those expensive outfits that I found for her downtown Chicago, and she looked very cute. But I do my best, yes. I try.
“I also try and take care of my sister and my parents and everybody else, too, but it’s impossible when you have a little niece, to be able to walk by a little girls’ clothing [store], and not go, <<Oh, my God. Look at that; I have to buy it>>. So I do.”
She also talked about the occasional diaper change.
“Do I change diapers? Heck yeah,” Danica Patrick said.
“Yeah, I do. I don’t mind. I was [recently] changing a diaper, and I had a new one ready to go, and all of a sudden I looked down, and I’m like, <<Gosh, girl, you were sweating, weren’t you?>> And I’m like, <<No, you peed again>>. So then I went for another diaper.”
She added: “At least it wasn’t a boy, right? That would have been in my face.”
Danica Patrick is going strong into a second year in a relationship with fellow Sprint Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
For the second time in her three Daytona 500s, Danica Patrick’s day ended with a crash.
After rain delayed the Daytona 500 for 6 hours, 22 minutes, on Lap 145, Kevin Harvick moved up the track and clipped Brian Scott, triggering a crash involving nine cars.
As Danica Patrick attempted to skirt to the inside, Aric Almirola’s car slid down and tagged her car in the right front. The impact eventually sent her car careening into the outside wall.
“What the hell happened?” asked Danica Patrick, who led two laps before contact with Aric Almirola shot her straight into the wall exiting Turn 4.
Other drivers involved in the wreck were pole-sitter Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Paul Menard, Michael Waltrip, David Gilliland, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Justin Allgaier and Josh Wise.
For the second time in her three Daytona 500s, Danica Patrick’s day ended with a crash
Paul Menard led a race-high 29 laps before the wreck.
Aric Almirola says he wasn’t sure what happened because the crash.
Later, with the laps winding down in the race, Austin Dillon slid up into Kyle Larson, triggering the second multicar wreck of the evening.
With the pack running through Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 161, Austin Dillon lost control of the No. 3 Chevy, turned Larson and slid up until Casey Mears collected Brian Vickers, Michael Annett, Marcos Ambrose, Brian Scott and Jamie McMurray, drawing the fourth caution.
Austin Dillon caused yet another wreck with six laps remaining in the race. He ran into his new teammate Ryan Newman in Turn 3 and ignited a seven-car wreck.
After NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying Friday at Daytona International Speedway, Danica Patrick was asked whether she would, in fact, agree to race Richard Petty, something her car owner Tony Stewart suggested.
Richard Petty made critical comments about Danica Patrick’s driving during a recent autograph session in Canada.
He also told Fox News on Friday: “I’m 76 years old, OK?”
“It’s been 25 years since I’ve been in a race car. But I’ll take that challenge.”
Richard Petty is an outspoken critic of Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick’s response was: “All right.”
“I think Tony said he was getting the cars ready, right? At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is my team owner, Tony Stewart, believes in me. That’s the most important thing.”
Danica Patrick then was asked if the race with Richard Petty could take place on a racing simulator.
“No,” she said, and with that her press conference ended.
Former NASCAR driver Richard “The King” Petty said Danica Patrick will only win a NASCAR race if everyone else stays at home.
In an interview with Wheels.ca, Richard Lee Petty was asked if he thinks Danica Patrick will ever win a race in the Sprint Cup Series.
The King’s response was: “Only if everybody else stayed home.”
Former NASCAR driver Richard “The King” Petty said Danica Patrick will only win a NASCAR race if everyone else stays at home
Richard Petty continued: “If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a race track,” said the seven-time Daytona 500 champion.
“This is a female deal that’s driving her. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport.”
Jay Mohr was back for his second stint as host of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards on Friday night in Las Vegas.
Jay Mohr made jokes and jabs, but Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who attended the event, were not laughing.
Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards
In his opening monologue, Jay Mohr took aim at Danica Patrick, joking she was not used to being so close to the front. The joke drew an immediate reaction from the crowd in attendance, while Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse did not seem to find the humor in the situation.
Danica Patrick is to return this weekend to Daytona 500, the track where she experienced her greatest stock-car moment.
Danica Patrick, 31, just won’t have the car she used to achieve her record-setting feat in the Daytona 500.
She became the first woman to win a pole for a Sprint Cup race and then a week later scored the highest finish for a woman in Daytona 500 history by placing eighth. But she wrecked her Daytona car in May at Talladega Superspeedway.
Danica Patrick will instead have the car she tested with at Daytona in January and again at a Goodyear tire test there in April.
“We lost that poor [pole-winning] car at Talladega, so we are going back with our backup, which is a really good car anyway,” Danica Patrick said.
“We tested with it at the beginning of the year, and I expect it to go in a similar fashion. I think we will still be pretty fast.
“Will we qualify on the pole and run in the top three or [top] five all day? I don’t know. Maybe.”
Danica Patrick ran third throughout the race but got shuffled back to eighth on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
“The heat always changes things a little bit, but it’s a different car and it’s going to be a different Hendrick engine,” Danica Patrick said.
“All that stuff just leads to a slightly different weekend. But I expect it to be somewhat similar, at least from a good standpoint in my head.”
That’s important, considering it hasn’t been the best of seasons for Danica Patrick, who is 27th in the Cup standings and has not had another top-10 finish and just two other top-20 finishes in her first full-time Cup season.
Danica Patrick is to return this weekend to Daytona 500, the track where she experienced her greatest stock-car moment
Given her ability to go fast on restrictor-plate tracks, her Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief believes she can win at Daytona this weekend.
“We felt like we had a shot to win it [in February], ran in the top three or four all day and had a fast car, and it came down to the last lap and [she] kind of got snookered a little bit there at the end,” crew chief Tony Gibson said.
“We felt like we were definitely in contention to win it, so we’re going back there with the same mindset, to try to be the fastest car in qualifying and try to close the deal at the end of this thing.”
Danica Patrick said that all of the advice she has gotten after the Daytona 500 is that she really didn’t do anything wrong on the final lap. She was more a victim of circumstance.
“I was just frustrated that I didn’t have a better plan,” Danica Patrick said.
“Tony [Stewart] said to me, <<I really feel like you had more to lose in your position than you had to gain by trying something, so I think that you did the right thing>>.
“That made me feel better – a little bit. Was I still mad that I went from third to eighth on the lap? No, [but] I was still disappointed in it.”
It’s disappointing whenever a driver has a chance to win and doesn’t capitalize. But for Danica Patrick, it also was disappointing because her IndyCar background helps more at Daytona than possibly any other track.
Danica Patrick knows that a good finish can help relieve pressure on her team throughout the season.
“It’s obviously a track that we feel like we can win at,” Tony Gibson said.
“I feel like that’s right in Danica’s wheelhouse there. She likes the drafting. She likes the high speeds, and I think most of that comes from the IndyCar side of it. … We work hard every week, but when it comes to the restrictor-plate racing, especially going to Daytona, we go all out.
“We put every little thing we can into those cars, because we know that that’s a track that we can win at and we can really do some damage, on the good side.”
Tony Gibson and his crew aren’t used to so much pressure. Many worked at Dale Earnhardt Inc. with Dale Earnhardt Jr., but even Tony Gibson admits that the worldwide celebrity of Danica Patrick is different.
“You want your performance to be good because you don’t want to let your fans down,” Tony Gibson said.
“You don’t want to let her fans down.
“When you’ve got to look a little girl in the eye and she asks you what happened last week or why didn’t Danica win, it’s pretty hard to come up with an answer that’s going to satisfy a little girl.”
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick says she doesn’t care that Kyle Petty thinks she’s better at getting attention than driving because she’s heard it all before.
But if Kyle Petty’s going to attack her, the NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie believes he should at least get his facts straight.
On Friday, Danica Patrick responded to Kyle Petty’s comments a night earlier on Speed’s “Race Hub” program, in which the former Sprint Cup driver called her a “marketing machine” rather than a race car driver. Kyle Petty also doubted that Danica Patrick, 31, would become a driver and insisted that she doesn’t race as well as she qualifies.
Danica Patrick’s statistics suggest otherwise. On average she’s finishing almost six spots higher (25.8) than she starts (32nd), which she noted by saying: “Those who watch know I can’t qualify for crap. The race goes much better.”
That likely won’t stop Kyle Petty, the 53-year-old son of seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty and an eight-time race winner on NASCAR’s premier circuit, from criticizing Patrick.
Now an analyst for TNT and Fox/Speed, Kyle Petty has periodically taken jabs at Danica Patrick, a former IndyCar Series driver who now drives the No. 10 Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing. Danica Patrick is 27th in points in her first full Cup season, which follows an open wheel career highlighted by a fuel-mileage victory in 2008 in Motegi, Japan.
On Thursday night, Kyle Petty seemed to elaborate on his views during the show. While he understands the mass appeal of Danica Patrick, who has been featured in racy TV ads for sponsor Go Daddy and was IndyCar’s most popular driver for several years, her driving skills don’t justify the hype in his opinion.
Danica Patrick says she doesn’t care that Kyle Petty thinks she’s better at getting attention than driving
“That’s where I have a problem, where fans have bought into the hype of the marketing, to think she’s a race car driver,” he said.
“She can go fast, and I’ve seen her go fast. She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast.”
Asked if she has learned to race, Kyle Petty continued: “She’s not a race car driver. There’s a difference. The King always had that stupid saying, but it’s true, <<Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race>>. Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs. She can go fast, but she can’t race.”
Danica Patrick won the pole and finished eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500 but has admittedly struggled this season. She said she’s working toward that point where things level out but isn’t there yet.
The main thing is keeping her team, sponsor and fans happy – not giving a second thought to Petty’s comments.
“I really don’t care,” she said during a news conference at Kentucky Speedway. “It’s true that there are plenty of people who say bad things about me. I read them. People want me to die. At the end of the day, you get over that stuff and trust you are doing a good job.”
Asked what it will take to quiet her critics, Danica Patrick’s response brought some laughs.
“Do you think I will silence my naysayers?” she asked.
“You don’t. I’m sure everybody has them. You know who believes in you. That’s what matters.”
Former boss Dale Earnhardt Jr. has shown his faith in Patrick, giving her a chance to transition to stock cars over three years in the Nationwide Series at JR Motorsports. Dale Earnhardt Jr. defended Danica Patrick and called her a tough competitor who works hard and said she wouldn’t have a ride if she couldn’t stay with the pack or finished last every week.
“I have to disagree with Kyle,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
“She has run some really good races. On every occasion she is outrunning several guys out on the circuit. If she was not able to compete, I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument.
“But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts. I think that she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”