As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Sunday’s First Data 500, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Ford Warriors in Pink Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will be looking to rekindle their performance at the .526-mile oval.
In March 2015, Patrick etched her name in the record books at Martinsville by earning a seventh-place finish in the STP 500. The effort ended with her first top-10 finishes of the season and the fifth top-10 of her NASCAR Cup Series career. It also tied Patrick with Janet Guthrie for the most top-10 NASCAR Cup Series finishes by a female driver, a record that Patrick now holds outright with seven top-10s in Cup Series competition.
For Patrick, that spring race wasn’t the first time she’d made history at Martinsville. In April 2013, she became the first female driver to compete in a NASCAR Cup Series race at the track, which first opened in 1949.
Her first Martinsville start surprised many NASCAR observers as she earned a solid 12th-place result – made more impressive by the fact she started 43rd after an engine change before the race. Patrick looked like a veteran on the shortest track on the circuit. All-told, in nine NASCAR Cup Series starts at Martinsville, she’s earned one top-10 finish and four top-20s.
As Patrick and the No. 10 team enter Sunday’s race, they look forward to reviving their performance after having their day cut short by accidents the past three weekends. Three weeks ago at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Patrick’s race was cut short with less than 75 laps to go when her No. 10 Ford Warriors In Pink Ford was collected by another car as it spun down the track. Her car sustained significant damage and she was relegated to a 38th-place finish when the team was unable to make repairs. Two weeks ago at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Patrick ran inside the top-10 but was scored just outside the top-20 when a multicar accident on lap 172 caused significant damage to both the right front and the right rear of the No. 10 Ford. The team pitted multiple times for repairs but was unable to properly address the issues within the NASCAR-mandated five-minute time limit, thus ending Patrick’s day and relegating the team to a 21st-place finish. Last week at Kanas Speedway in Kansas City, Patrick was collected in a late-race, 14-car accident that left the team unable to continue. She had to settle for a 38th-place finish.
Once again this weekend, Patrick’s No. 10 Ford will feature the Warriors in Pink livery in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The special paint scheme marks Ford’s decades-long commitment to raising awareness and funds in the fight against the disease. The Ford Warriors in Pink program has worked for 23 years to help breast cancer patients and their families. To date, Ford has dedicated more than $133 million to research, education and patient resources.
Patrick’s No. 10 racecar displays the warrior symbol to honor the powerful, courageous women and men engaged in the fight against breast cancer. Symbols are a key part of the inspirational message Ford Warriors in Pink represents – serving to uplift those who exhibit strength and courage in the face of their greatest battle.
After three-straight DNFs, Patrick and the No. 10 Ford Warriors in Pink Ford team are ready to channel that warrior spirit as they look to rekindle their success at the iconic Martinsville short track and bring home another top-10 finish and greater awareness for the Warriors in Pink initiative.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Ford Warriors in Pink Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you like about racing at Martinsville?
“At Martinsville, I enjoy that if you have a good car, you can pass. I always say that Martinsville is one of those tracks that you’re either looking out your windshield or you’re looking in your rearview mirror. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of in-between there, at least for me. Luckily, I’ve had more weekends where I was looking out the windshield.”
Short track racing is where NASCAR started and it’s where NASCAR drivers typically get their start. How intense is it to race when you have an entire field crammed onto a half-mile oval?
“I think short-track racing, where we apex the bottom of the track, like Martinsville, can be fun because you can use your bumper and get them a little bit out of the way and out of shape.”
What’s the toughest thing to figure out about Martinsville?
“At Martinsville, like any short track, you want to make sure you turn the center, but you have to have drive on exit. They go hand-in-hand, too. If you can’t turn the center, it doesn’t matter what kind of power-down you have. If you have all that wheel in it when you’re trying to get off the corner and put the power down, it puts a lot of load on those back tires to try and get you off the corner because you’re using the power to try and turn. It’s about achieving a good balance with the car and I feel like our team has really always done a pretty good job with that. I’ve only had one Martinsville that was bad and the rest of them were all pretty decent.”
What is the key to success at Martinsville?
“I came from a road-course-racing background and, at Martinsville, I feel like you have to set up passes a little bit like that. I think it’s also a track where you have to exercise a lot of discipline. It’s easy to make mistakes. It’s easy to overdrive and try and get a little bit more when you’re passing somebody and make mistakes. Those are the two things I keep in mind when I’m there. I also think you really need a good car there, and Stewart-Haas Racing has always had good cars there.”