It’s getting real for Danica Patrick.
Sponsor GoDaddy unveiled this morning on social media platforms the No. 13 Chevrolet that Patrick will drive in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May, in what she has announced will be the last competitive race of her groundbreaking career. It will bring the first woman to lead the crown jewel of Indy car racing full circle to conclude her racing at the venue that launched her stardom.
Patrick and the Ed Carpenter Racing entry emblazoned with the GoDaddy logo shared center stage Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a photo/video shoot ahead of today’s launch. The bright green car is reminiscent of the one she is most remembered for during a seven-year Verizon IndyCar Series career from 2005-11 before she ventured to stock cars.
Gazing at the car, decked in her matching green firesuit, Patrick sensed the authenticity of the moment.
“It’s pretty damn real, it’s completely real,” said Patrick, who turned 36 on March 25. “Yeah, I’m excited. It scares me a little bit to look at how small that rear wing is, but hey, I’m sure there’s (downforce) grip somewhere – more grip than I’m used to.”
Patrick hasn’t been in an Indy car since the close of the 2011 season. She’d hoped to be on the 2.5-mile oval for two days this week during veteran refresher and manufacturer testing, but those sessions were postponed by inclement Indianapolis weather that included snow on Saturday and rain this week. Testing has been rescheduled for April 30-May 2.
Those days fall less than a month from race day on May 27, and Patrick is fine with that. She believes the rescheduled testing will yield more relevant data than one in late March would have – “more accurate everything, from the car, to the people, to the setup, you name it,” she said. “Weather, everything will be more similar and it’s closer to the time (of the race). It’s good with me.”
Until then, the veteran of 116 Verizon IndyCar Series starts – and the only woman to win a major open-wheel race with her 2008 victory at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi – is using the time to become better acquainted with her new team.
“Everybody’s been great,” said Patrick, who will have team owner Ed Carpenter and third-year driver Spencer Pigot as teammates. “Everybody’s been good to work with and fun and easy and working hard and getting the right people involved. Giving us a shot to finish the way I started.”
Track time, however, must wait a month. And don’t look for Patrick to spend any time in a racing simulator looking to sharpen her skills. She doesn’t believe in their effectiveness, citing the time she tried a setup from a simulator session before a NASCAR weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, only to run near the back of the pack in practice. When her team changed to a setup from a driver who hadn’t been in the simulator, “it was like top 10 the next day.”
“So since then, I’ve never used a simulator,” Patrick added. “I don’t think it’s very realistic. … I think it’s counter-productive or just not productive at all.”
When she does test on May 1-2, Patrick has a simple checklist to complete, including “developing a good little rapport with the team and getting excited and having fun.” She has, however, never driven the Dallara IR-12 chassis or the twin-turbocharged, V-6 engines now in use.
“For me, it’s just getting a feel for the tendencies of the car in general,” Patrick concluded. “Even if I was getting back in the exact same Indy car that I drove the last time I was in one, I’d still want to know that after being gone so long.
“Just knowing what does a little bit of front wing do, what does a little right rear spring do, what does a stiffer front sway bar feel like. Just little things to change ‘em up and see what the tendencies tend to be with the car. Things that will be go-tos maybe when we get going for real.”
The IMS testing from April 30-May 2 will be open free to the public, with viewing available at the IMS Museum parking lot, Turn 2 viewing mounds and the South Terrace grandstands.
Practice for the 102nd running begins Tuesday, May 15, with qualifying set for Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20. “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” airs live at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, May 27 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Tickets for all month of May activities at IMS, including the fifth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 12, are available at IMS.com.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!