Danica: Talladega is Crazy, Fast, And Risky

Danica Patrick & A.J. Allmendinger

 “Crazy, fast and risky.” That’s how Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing, describes restrictor-plate racing at tracks like Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete in Sunday’s Alabama 500.

Talladega has long been considered somewhat of a wild-card event, 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 crazy, fast and unpredictable racing.

“It’s super easy to drive around the track flat-out by yourself – it’s not difficult at all,” Patrick said. “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.”

All of that jostling and jockeying around for position at speeds near 200 mph can lead to 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.

Patrick has set records at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the other restrictor-plate superspeedway on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule – but she’s yet to find the same level of success at Talladega. With 10 prior NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track, her career-best finish is a 19th-place result she earned in October 2014.

In May, after running as high as seventh, a late-race, 18-car accident relegated Patrick to a 38th-place finish. Last year, another 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.

As the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega this weekend, Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford team will be prepared for a crazy race as they look to survive the “big one” and go for the winon Sunday.

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
What are three words that describe restrictor-plate races?

“Three words that describe plate racing would be: crazy, fast and risky.”

Describe the intensity of restrictor-plate racing.

“It’s super easy to drive around the track flat-out by yourself – it’s not difficult 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. It’s a big race for spotters, so having a really good one that you trust is very important.”

You’ve always liked going to Talladega. Why is that?

“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 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.”

Aspen Dental Racing Team Report

Round 31 of 36 – Alabama 500 – Talladega

Car No.: 10 – Aspen Dental Ford Fusion

 

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: Tony Cardamone

Hometown: Bristol, Virginia

 

Engine Builder: Roush Yates Engines

Headquarters: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Engine Specialist: Evan Cupples

Hometown: Hudson, Illinois

 

Spotter: Brandon Benesch

Hometown: Cumberland, Wisconsin

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Justin Wilson

Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota

 

Front Tire Changer: Ryan Mulder

Hometown: Sioux City, Iowa

 

Second Gas Man: Nate Spoor

Hometown: Penn Yan, New York

 

Front Tire Carrier: Tyler Bullard

Hometown: King, North Carolina

 

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: Josh Houghton

Hometown: Lancaster, California

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Wayne Anderson and Larry Lush

Hometown: West Covina, California and Waynesville, North Carolina, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Nathan McGuire

Hometown: Palmyra, New York

 

Shock Specialist: Aaron Kuehn

Hometown: Kensington, Connecticut

 

Engineers: Scott Bingham and William Lee

Hometowns: Lawrenceville, Georgia and Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, respectively

 

Underneath Mechanic: Nick McIntosh

Hometown: Havre, Montana

 

Front End Mechanic: Joe Zanolini

Hometown: Sybertsville, Pennsylvania

Alabama 500 Notes of Interest: 
  • The Alabama 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway will mark Danica Patrick’s 185th career start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In 10 previous starts at the 2.66-mile track, Patrick’s best NASCAR Cup Series finish is a 19th-place result she earned in October 2014. In two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the track, she finished a career-best 13th in May 2012.
  • Aspen Dental: With more than 600 offices in 36 states, Aspen Dental-branded practices offer patients a safe, welcoming and judgment-free environment to get the full range of dental care they need along with the convenience and speed of onsite denture labs. That’s why the Aspen Dental network of independent dental care providers is one of the largest and fastest growing in the U.S. and saw more than 1.5 million patients in 2016. To find out more about how Aspen Dental practices make it simply easier for each of their patients to get the healthy mouth they deserve, visit AspenDental.com.
  • Get Started with Aspen Dental: As the Official Dentist of NASCARthe dentists and teams at Aspen Dental practices are making it easier for NASCAR fans to “Get Started” on their way to a healthier mouth. In March, Aspen Dental, one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of independent dental care providers in the United States, announced a new health initiative with NASCAR and Patrick called Get Started. Together, they hope to get as many of the 150 million Americans who do not visit the dentist each year to get started or restarted on the road to a healthier mouth. Get Started makes it easier for fans to go to the dentist, no matter what’s holding them back. Fans can visit AspenDental.com/GetStarted to schedule appointments. Get Started is all about making it easier for NASCAR fans and the rest of the public to improve their oral health. There are 600 Aspen Dental practices around the country to choose from. And, from the moment fans make an appointment, they receive help with paperwork and insurance, and with its compassionate dentists and hygienists, Aspen Dental practices make it easier to Get Started – easier on patients’ time, wallets, and mouths.
  • Dallas Dogs Available: A plush version of Dallas Stenhouse, the 3-year-old miniature Siberian Husky that belongs to Patrick and her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., is now available for sale. Race fans can purchase their own Dallas plush dog at the SHR team store in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the SHR online store and at Shop.DanicaPatrick.com. A portion of the proceeds from all sales will benefit animal charities.
  • 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 NASCAR Cup Series 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 (Cup, Xfinity, Truck).
    • Competed in every NASCAR Cup Series race in 2013, becoming the first female driver to complete an entire season in the series.
    • Became the first female to compete in the non-points NASCAR All-Star race (2013) and Sprint Unlimited (2014).
    • Have the most starts of any female in NASCAR Cup Series competition.
    • With seven top-10 finishes, holds the record for the most top-10 finishes of any female in NASCAR 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!

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