The NASCAR Goes West journey continues for Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as they travel to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
The race in Fontana marks the third and final event of this year’s three-race jaunt out West for NASCAR Cup Series teams. The No. 10 Aspen Dental team was credited with a 36th-place finish on the first leg of the trip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after engine failure. Patrick finished 22nd in the second round of the West Coast adventure last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
As the No. 10 team moves on to Fontana this week, it is looking to end the NASCAR Goes West journey with a solid run. Sunday’s race will mark Patrick’s fifth NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway. Her top finish at the track is a 14th-place effort she earned in March 2014. Patrick also has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the 2-mile oval.
In last year’s race at Fontana, Patrick started 31st and ran as high as 16th before midrace contact with a competitor sent Patrick into the wall, ending the team’s day early. She was credited with a 38th-place finish.
In addition to her stock car experience at the track, Patrick also competed in the 2005 IndyCar Series event at Fontana. She started fourth and led two laps before being involved in an accident late in the race and finished 18th.
As Patrick returns to Fontana this weekend, her No. 10 Ford Fusion will feature the blue-and-white branding of Aspen Dental. One of the largest and fastest-growing brands in the United States, Aspen Dental has been a partner of SHR since 2012 and aligned with Patrick since 2014. In the brand’s sixth year with SHR and fourth with Patrick, it will serve as the primary sponsor of Patrick’s No. 10 Ford Fusion for a double-digit slate of races in 2017.
Patrick has helped shine a spotlight on oral health across a multitude of channels since partnering with the brand. She promotes Aspen Dental’s Healthy Mouth Movement – a community-giving initiative that has delivered more than $7.5 million in donated dentistry for veterans since its inception, and also appeared in “A Taste of the Future” – a hidden-camera video campaign designed to raise awareness about the long-term consequences of delaying dental care.
Sunday, Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford team will look to head home with a smile and close out the West Coast swing with a solid finish at Fontana.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your overall thoughts on Fontana?
“Fontana’s pavement has not aged gracefully (laughs), so it makes for a challenging race. It’s a challenge to set up the car – the seams move the car around a lot. It’s very fast, yet you still have to get the car to rotate and it seems really tight off of (turn) two. It’s one of the tougher places to get the balance right. But, if you do strike a good balance in practice, you have a chance to have a really good day on Sunday.”
Coming out of Daytona, we hit a stretch of the season that includes Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana. How important is that slate of races?
“The first five races of the year are super-critical for the points championship but, in particular, they’re a good indicator of how the rest of the year is going to go from a performance standpoint. With those tracks, you’re covering all the bases with a short track, being Phoenix, a mile-and-a-half with Atlanta, a mile-and-a-half with Vegas – with Vegas being high-grip and Atlanta being low-grip – and then you go to Fontana, which is a 2-mile, flat, wide oval. So, you’ve got a lot of different challenges. If we can perform well as a team at all of those tracks and have the mechanical handling that we need, and good understanding as to what we need there to balance out the aerodynamics – which, hopefully, aero-wise we’re in good shape – then we’ll have a great start to the year.”