Danica Patrick – 2016 Watkins Glen Race Advance

Ready for the Unknown

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – When NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams visit Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355k at The Glen, they will be competing on a newly repaved track surface and dealing with all of the unknowns that a fresh surface can present.

Following last year’s event, the facility underwent a complete repave, the first since 1989. In addition to resurfacing the track, workers installed new concrete on pit road and new concrete rumble strips in the turns, as well as other facility upgrades.

While Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has plenty of experience at Watkins Glen, only four starts have come in NASCAR – three in Sprint Cup and one in the Xfinity Series.

Six of Patrick’s starts at The Glen came in the IndyCar Series and unfortunately won’t offer much assistance. As if the incredible difference between a stock car and an Indy car weren’t enough, the IndyCar Series used the longer version of the Watkins Glen road circuit, which includes the famous “boot” portion of the track. Her performances were OK – her best start was seventh in 2009 and her best finish was eighth in 2006.

Patrick did compete in the 2012 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen, but she finished 43rd after Ryan Truex spun in front of her at the start. She could not avoid his spinning car and made heavy contact with his machine.

In three starts at Watkins Glen in Sprint Cup competition, Patrick finished 17th last year, 21st in 2014 and 20th in 2013. Last August, she started 22nd and, despite battling transmission issues throughout the event, was able to still score a 17th-place finish. In 2014, she started 43rd in the team’s backup car due to an accident in practice and managed to gain 22 positions during the race, even though the car sustained damage during a lap-57 accident. The previous year, she started 35th and twice managed to avoid multicar accidents en route to a 20th-place finish.

Despite the unknowns the newly repaved track presents as the Sprint Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen this weekend, Patrick is ready for much better results and hopefully can gain the best road-course finish of her career.

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What is the hardest part about road racing?

“The hardest part of road racing is just putting a whole lap together. The hardest part of road racing is just nailing every corner and doing it consistently when it counts.”

What about the road courses do you enjoy?

“I’m very used to racing on road courses. That’s how I grew up in go-karting. It’s what I did in Europe when I raced and it’s what IndyCar racing really became before I left. There were three IndyCar road-course races when I started and, by the end, the majority of the races were on road courses – I think it was eight or nine races. So I’m super familiar and super comfortable on road courses, but jumping into a stock car on a road course does feel a lot different than a lot of the other cars I’ve driven before on a road course. It still makes for great races because the braking zones are longer in stock cars, which allows more opportunities for passing.”

Talk about what makes Watkins Glen so difficult and how different it is from Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

“We only go to road courses twice during the season. I don’t think it’s terribly different from Sonoma in the sense that both are road courses and if you can get your car to handle, then things you learn can transfer between both tracks. Even before the repave, Watkins Glen had a lot more grip than Sonoma. You tend to slide around a good bit at Sonoma. As long as the car has good high-speed balance, then that leads to good things at The Glen.”

Talk through the keys to running well at Watkins Glen International.

“Well, with the repave, it’ll be interesting to see how the first few laps are on track. Then the first real tough turn where the car is definitely on edge at Watkins Glen is when you’re coming up the hill to the back straight. It’s critical because it leads onto the back straightaway, so you want to carry as much speed as you can through there. Having a car with a good high-speed balance is really important there. In general, it’s very important that the car turns. It’s kind of the same thing everywhere we go – the car has to turn, but it can’t turn so much that you can’t use it because you’re loose. Then you go through the bus stop and, if you have to wait on the front (of the car) a lot, then you can’t really get back to the throttle. That carries to a very long high-speed right-hand corner, so there’s a lot of exit that you can use if you’re sliding on whatever end that might be. But getting the car to turn through all of that is really what’s going to allow you to be able to attack the throttle.”

What are your overall thoughts on Watkins Glen?

“Road courses are rhythm. You have to have a nice balance and, if your car is too loose or too tight, it gets bad. That’s how I feel about road courses. You really have to be able to strike that balance.”

If you are good at Sonoma, can you be good at Watkins Glen?

“Probably. I think these cars are such big, heavy cars, the difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen is not that big of a deal. 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 are struggling with rear-grip issues, you probably are going to not be penalized as much at Watkins Glen as you are Sonoma.”

What are your thoughts on the history of Watkins Glen?

“It’s a cool place and a neat part of the country. F1 raced there. I raced there a lot with IndyCar, and NASCAR has been there for 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. It’s a cool place to race.”

DANICA PATRICK’S WATKINS GLEN PERFORMANCE PROFILE#

Year Date Event Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led Earnings
2015 8/9 Cheez-It 355k at The Glen (NSCS) 22 17 Running, 90/90 0 $86,690
2014 8/10 Cheez-It 355k at The Glen (NSCS) 43 21 Running, 90/90 0 $84,965
2013 8/11 355k at The Glen (NSCS) 35 20 Running, 90/90 0 $77,635
2012 8/11 Zippo 200 at The Glen (NXS) 23 43 Accident, 2/82 0 $16,002
2010 7/4 Camping World Grand Prix (ICS) 21 20 Running, 60/60 0 N/A
2009 7/5 Camping World Grand Prix (ICS) 7 11 Running, 60/60 0 N/A
2008 7/6 Camping World Grand Prix (ICS) 14 14 Running, 60/60 0 $60,000
2007 7/8 Camping World Grand Prix (ICS) 15 11 Running, 60/60 0 $45,800
2006 6/4 Watkins Glen Grand Prix (ICS) 16 8 Running, 55/55 0 $47,400
2005 9/25 Watkins Glen Grand Prix (ICS) 16 16 Running, 58/60 0 $36,600

# IndyCar Series races were conducted on the 3.4-mile road course, while NASCAR uses the 2.45-mile road course.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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