Patrick Seeks Road to Success
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 8, 2014 | 10:03 A.M. EST
Danica Patrick, shown here en route to an 18th-place finish earlier this season in Sonoma, eyes continued improvement on road courses in Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. (Photo: Getty Images)
Danica Patrick has her sights set on another improved road racing performance in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen.
In her previous three Sprint Cup Series starts on road courses, Patrick has topped her previous finish. She qualified 31st and finished 29th in her first race in June 2013 at Sonoma Raceway and then qualified 35th but improved to 20th in last August’s race at Watkins Glen.
Her best race yet came at Sonoma back in June of this year, where she qualified 11th and finished 18th. While those numbers may not be head turners for some, Patrick sees it as a positive in her second full season in NASCAR’s top division.
"Road courses are rhythm," she explained. "You have to have a nice balance and if your car is too loose or too tight, it gets bad. You have to be able to strike that balance."
The current pair of road courses on the Sprint Cup schedule are different in layouts, but Patrick does see a similarity between Sonoma and "The Glen." In her mind, she believes success at one track can translate to a good performance at the other.
"These cars are such big, heavy cars, the difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen is not that big of a deal," said Patrick. "It still has corners, and has to go left and right, and then go quickly and turn quickly ... and get the power down quickly and do things it’s not used to doing on a normal, everyday weekend.
"There should be plenty of carryover from road course to road course. If you're struggling with rear-grip issues, you're probably not going to be penalized as much at Watkins Glen as you are Sonoma."
In addition to her previous pair of NASCAR starts at Watkins Glen in the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series, Patrick has experience at the historic track in Upstate New York during her IndyCar days.
The history and scenery of the track are just two examples of why Patrick enjoys racing there.
"It’s a cool place and neat part of the country," she said. "F1 raced there. I raced there a lot with IndyCar and NASCAR has been there a long time. They seem to race everything there. I like what they’ve done with it and the fans seem to really enjoy it, which is most important."
Patrick has five more shots at somehow finding her way to Victory Lane this season and grabbing a spot in this year’s Chase field. While there have been signs of sporadic improvement in this - her sophomore season - outside of restrictor-plate races in Daytona and Talladega as well as a solid top-10 run at Kansas Speedway back in May, Patrick hasn’t been an impact player in terms of winning much this season.
However, a road course might be the great equalizer - due in no small part to strategies and fuel-mileage plans that may be employed as the regular season draws to a close.
"At the beginning of the season, you saw some people taking chances to do something unique," said Patrick. "It hasn’t completely gone away. But as we get closer to the Chase, you'll see a surge in that strategy. What better place to do it than a road course?"
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen starting at 12 noon (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.