100 Miles Longer; Little Later Start Time

Racing on Memorial Day weekend will be nothing new for Danica Patrick. But for 2012, the car, location, track length and distance will be brand new for the Go Daddy Girl.

For the past seven years on Memorial Day weekend, Patrick has competed in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And nowhere did Patrick perform better than in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” She burst onto the scene at Indy in May 2005 when she stunned the world by leading three times for 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first “500” – becoming the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the historic race.

She set numerous records during her Indianapolis 500 debut and set the tone early when she posted the fastest lap on the opening day of practice. She went on to set the fastest practice lap five times throughout the month – more than any other driver – including Pole Day and Carburetion Day.

Patrick’s practice lap of 229.880 mph on Pole Day was the fastest of any driver during the month and the fastest turned by any woman in the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During her qualification attempt, Patrick made an impressive save as her car bobbled in turn one on her first lap, earning her rave reviews for her car control by longtime Speedway observers. She ended up qualifying fourth, the best-ever starting position for a woman in the race.

On race day, with 11 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, Patrick blew past leader Dan Wheldon and held the point until lap 194, when she was forced to slow down in order to conserve fuel to make it to the finish. Her efforts earned her Rookie of the Year honors.

Patrick scored six top-10 finishes in seven starts at Indianapolis and qualified 10th or better five times. Her third-place result in 2009 is the best finish ever for a woman in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

This Sunday will be different for Patrick, though, as she’ll watch the start of the Indianapolis 500 on television from her motorhome as she prepares to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

The driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet will compete in a race that is 100 miles longer than the Indianapolis 500, starts six hours later than the “500” and takes place on a 1.5-mile high-banked oval rather than a 2.5-mile nearly flat rectangle.

It will be part of the continuing education for Patrick as she transitions from INDYCAR to NASCAR, much like Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) owner-driver Tony Stewart did more than a decade ago.

And while it will be different for Patrick, she’s hoping the success she had at Indianapolis follows her south.


Speedway Digest Staff

Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest