|As the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons starts to wind down with the final handful of races of the year, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) return to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – a track where anything can happen – for Sunday’s Alabama 500.
Talladega has always 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 Sprint Cup 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.
“It’s super easy to drive around the track flat-out by yourself,” Patrick said. “It’s not hard at all. When you put all of the other cars around you, it’s not necessarily about how the car feels on the track, although that can be an issue, for sure, at times. It’s more about what everyone else is doing around you. You’re constantly looking at what’s happening in front of you. You’re also looking at what’s behind you.”
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.
“The race is constantly evolving and you and your spotter have to be on it to be in the right position at the end,” Patrick said.
While Patrick has set records at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the other restrictor-plate superspeedway on the Sprint Cup schedule – she’s yet to find the same level of success at Talladega. With seven prior starts at the track, her career-best finish is a19th-place effort she earned in October 2014. Last year, she finished 21st in both races at the 2.66-mile track and, in May, a late-race accident left her with a 24th-place result.
As the Sprint Cup circuit returns to Talladega this weekend, Patrick and the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet team will be looking to turn their luck around there and go for the win in Sunday’sAlabama 500.
|DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
|Describe the intensity of restrictor-plate racing.
“It’s super easy to drive around the track flat-out by yourself. It’s not hard at all. When you put all of the other cars around you, it’s not necessarily about how the car feels on the track, although that can be an issue, for sure, at times. It’s more about what everyone else is doing around you. You’re constantly looking at what’s happening in front of you. You’re also looking at what’s behind you. Probably more important than what’s happening in front of you is what’s happening behind you – who’s coming, who’s following you, who’s helping you move forward. There have been plenty of times that I’ve gone to the bottom and complained, ‘Where’s my help?’ It seems like I’ll slot in on the bottom line and then everyone behind me disappears. You really have to have people behind you, pushing you. The race is constantly evolving and you and your spotter have to be on it to be in the right position at the end. It’s a big race for spotters, so having a really good one that you trust is very important.”
What makes Talladega so special?
“The fans really make that place. The campgrounds, all that stuff, make it one, big party. You see how much fun the fans are having and that makes it fun for us as drivers. It’s just a unique place. The sheer size of the facility is amazing. I liked it from the first time I went there and, hopefully, we can have a good run and a good finish. The cool thing about superspeedways is that anybody can win. It’s a toss-up, what’s going to happen. On top of that, SHR’s superspeedway cars are really good.”
What are three words that describe restrictor-plate races?
“Three words that describe plate racing would be: crazy, fast and risky.”
What is your favorite part of going into the Talladega infield?
“My favorite part about going into the infield at Talladega is seeing things you’re not supposed to see. I mean, it’s a crazy party and I feel like those are the kinds of things that keep people coming back. It’s the atmosphere and the whole package of the weekend – not just the racing – but the parties, having fun and making memories.”
Nature’s Bakery Racing Team Report
Round 32 of 36 – Alabama 500 – Talladega
|Car No.: 10 – Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS
Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS
Tony Stewart– No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac Chevrolet SS
Kurt Busch – No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS
At-Track PR Contact: Annette Randall, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 805, Annette.Randall@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Danica Patrick
Hometown: Roscoe, Illinois
Crew Chief: Billy Scott
Hometown: Land O’ Lakes, Florida
Car Chief: Pete White
Hometown: Hinsdale, Massachusetts
Engine Builder: Hendrick Motorsports
Headquarters: Concord, North Carolina
Engine Specialist: Todd Hamm
Hometown: Kutztown, Pennsylvania
Spotter: Brandon Benesch
Hometown: Cumberland, Wisconsin
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Tony Cardamone
Hometown: Bristol, Virginia
Front Tire Changer: Ryan Mulder
Hometown: Sioux City, Iowa
Second Gas Man: Seth James
Hometown: Fairbury, Nebraska
Front Tire Carrier: Todd Drakulich
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Windshield: Kyle Anderson (also serves as interior mechanic)
Hometown: Jewell, Iowa
Rear Tire Changer: Jonathan Sherman
Hometown: Monroe, Louisiana
Jackman: Nate House
Hometown: Gastonia, North Carolina
Rear Tire Carrier: Jeremy Howard
Hometown: Dalhart, Texas
Road Crew Members:
Truck Drivers: Wayne Anderson and Scott Robbins
Hometown: West Covina, California and Woodsville, New Hampshire, respectively
Tire Specialist: Nathan McGuire
Hometown: Palmyra, New York
Shock Specialist: Jimmy Rowlands
Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania
Engineers: Oliver Rivera and William Lee
Hometowns: Houston and Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, respectively
Underneath Mechanic: Nick McIntosh
Hometown: Havre, Montana
Front End Mechanic: Joey Elliott
Hometown: Northwood, New Hampshire
|Alabama 500 Notes of Interest:
- The Alabama 500 will mark Danica Patrick’s 150th career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and her eighth at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. She finished a career-best 19th there in October 2014. In two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts there, she finished a career-best 13th in May 2012.
- Nature’s Bakery Fantern at Talladega: Tom Cavalli, a NASCAR fan who resides in Clermont, Florida, will join the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery team Sunday at Talladega as the latest Nature’s Bakery Fantern. The Fantern program was launched in January to energize fans with an opportunity to participate in a unique, at-track journey with Patrick and the No. 10 team. Cavalli’s race-day experience will include spending time with the Nature’s Bakery pit crew, a tour of the Sprint Cup garage and pit area, meeting Patrick and watching the race from pit road. The fan internship program is slated to run throughout the 2016 season. U.S. residents can visit www.NaturesBakery.com/Fantern to apply to be a part of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery team. Fans have two options to submit their applications for the role: submit a one-minute video, or several photos accompanied by a 500-word essay detailing why the fan should be selected as the next Nature’s Bakery Fantern. Each Nature’s Bakery Fantern will get to bring a guest to the track to share in the special at-track journey with the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery team. Fanterns will share social media content from their at-track adventure utilizing the #Fantern hashtag.
- Dallas Dogs Available: A plush version of Dallas Stenhouse, the 2-year-old miniature Siberian Husky that belongs to Patrick and her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., is available for sale. Race fans can purchase their own Dallas plush dog at the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team store in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the SHR online store and atShop.DanicaPatrick.com. A portion of the proceeds from all sales will benefit animal charities.
- Patrick Partners with Williams-Sonoma to Benefit No Kid Hungry: Williams-Sonoma recently launched its latest campaign to benefit No Kid Hungry and, as part of the effort, the retailer revealed its “Cook for a Cause” program, which includes a line of limited-edition, celebrity-designed spatulas. Williams-Sonoma will donate 30 percent of the retail price to No Kid Hungry, which can connect a child with 10 healthy meals for just $1. This year’s spatulas feature illustrations contributed by Jimmy Kimmel, Chrissy Teigen, Trisha Yearwood, Giada De Laurentiis, Ina Garten, Michael Voltaggio, Ayesha Curry, American Girl and Patrick. The limited-edition collection is on sale in stores and online:http://www.williams-sonoma.com/shop/new/new-no-kid-hungry/.
- For the History Books: Since Patrick began competing in NASCAR on a part-time basis in 2010, she has made plenty of history. Here is a recap of how she has altered the record books through the years:
- Became the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole when she set the fastest time in qualifying for the 2013 Daytona 500.
- Led laps 90 to 91 of the 2013 Daytona 500, becoming the first female to lead NASCAR’s most prestigious race. She also led laps 127 to 129.
- Became the first woman to lead a NASCAR race under green (Daytona 2013). Janet Guthrie led five laps under yellow in 1977 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.
- Finished 2013 Daytona 500 in eighth place, the highest finishing position ever for a woman in the “Great American Race.”
- Finished 10th in 2012 Xfinity Series points, the highest points finish by a woman in the history of NASCAR’s top three series (Sprint Cup, Xfinity, Truck).
- Competed in every Sprint Cup race in 2013, becoming the first female driver to complete an entire season in the series.
- Became the first female to compete in the nonpoints Sprint All-Star race (2013) and Sprint Unlimited (2014).
- Have the most starts of any female in Sprint Cup Series competition.
- With six top-10 finishes, holds the record for the most top-10 finishes of any female in Sprint Cup Series competition.
- History Maker in IndyCar: Patrick became the first woman to win a major-league open-wheel race in a North American series in April 2008 by winning the IndyCar Series Japan Indy 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan.
- Big Stage: In seven Indianapolis 500 starts, Patrick finished in the top-10 six times, including a third-place result in 2009, the best finish ever for a woman in the historic race.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!