Danica Patrick turned laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a race car Tuesday, July 10 for the first time in more than a year, but this time she had a special passenger.
Patrick drove around the famous 2.5-mile oval in a two-seater version of her No. 7 GoDaddy.com/NASCAR Unites "An American Salute" Chevrolet, with iconic television personality Katie Couric in the passenger seat. She also gave Couric a tour of IMS.
The laps also served as a fun warm-up for Patrick's official return to the Brickyard when she makes her IMS stock-car debut in the Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday, July 28 during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard.
"It feels really good to be at the track," Patrick said. "I enjoyed the laps that I made out there. I really, really enjoyed coming out of Turn 4 and coming down the front straightaway and seeing everything again."
Patrick last raced at IMS in the 2011 Indianapolis 500, in which she finished 10th. It was one of her six top-10 results in seven starts in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" since 2005, when she earned Chase Rookie of the Year honors and captured worldwide attention after an electrifying fourth-place finish.
After dabbling in the Nationwide Series last year, Patrick made a full-time switch to NASCAR in 2012. She is running the full Nationwide season for JR Motorsports and is participating in a partial Sprint Cup Series season for Stewart-Haas Racing, with plans for a full-time Cup schedule in 2013.
Patrick is excited for the transition to stock-car racing at Indy. She is ninth in the Nationwide Series standings, with one top-10 finish for a team owned by Sprint Cup superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"Obviously, I'm going to be a few inches or feet higher up in the seat from a visual perspective in a stock car, but nothing is going to feel better than to get back out there again," Patrick said. "I fell right into place. I feel so comfortable here and I have such a great emotion just coming into the track that I feel like that helps me overall be better because I feel so good and I feel so positive.
"It's good to be back here. I didn't think my first laps in a stock car around here would be a school stock car, but I thought it was a good lead-in to a couple of weeks from now when we're actually here for the real deal."
But Tuesday was all about fun. Patrick and Couric met and struck up a friendship during a ride of a lifetime for Couric.
"I was very, very, very, very, very quiet," Couric said of her initial reaction to the speed and roar of a stock car from the passenger seat. "I was nervous at first, but I had a lot of fun.
"I'm a huge fan of Danica's and have watched her career for many years now, and it was fun for me to get to spend some time with her and learn a little more about what makes her tick and about some of the choices she's made and things she's done in her life. I'm very impressed."