As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams return to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this week for Sunday’s Overton’s 400, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Code 3 Associates/One Cure Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) look to build on the momentum of recent finishes and score another solid finish at the “Tricky Triangle.”
Patrick enters the weekend at Pocono on the heels of three-straight top-15 finishes. She earned a 15th-place result at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, a 13th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and took home an 11th-place effort last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Each of those results marked Patrick’s career-best NASCAR Cup Series finish at the respective track.
Now Patrick heads to the “Tricky Triangle,” where her track record appears less than stellar with finishes of 30th or worse in five of her nine starts there, but that statistic is a bit deceiving.
In her second race at the track in August 2013, she was running a respectable 18th when she was involved in a multicar accident in the Tunnel Turn and ended up 35th. She was poised for a solid top-20 finish before the incident.
In June 2014, Patrick was running second on lap 138 of 160, but she cut a left-front tire and hit the turn-three wall to end any chance of a good finish. She was scheduled to make another pit stop before the end of the race for a splash of fuel and, even though a top-10 was probably out of the question, a top-15 was what the team was aiming for when the accident occurred. She ended up 37th in the race, two laps down, after repairs.
Then, in June 2015, Patrick ran as high as sixth and was scored 11th when the No. 10 car made contact with the outside wall on lap 136. The subsequent damage caused the sheet metal to cut down the right-rear tire. As a result, Patrick spun in turn one and the car’s right- rear corner hit the wall. After sustaining another flat tire, Patrick completed the remaining laps and finished 37th.
When NASCAR Cup Series teams visited Pocono in June 2016, Patrick was relegated to a 32nd-place finish after midrace contact sent the car into the wall on the Long Pond straightaway. At the time of the incident, Patrick had been scored 16th. The damage forced the team to go to the garage to make substantial repairs before Patrick was able to rejoin the field.
Despite all of that rough luck at Pocono, Patrick has earned two 16th-place finishes at the track. The first came in August 2015 and the second earlier this season when the NASCAR Cup Series visited the track in June.
Now, as the No. 10 Code 3 Associates/One Cure Ford team heads back to Pocono, Patrick will be ready to capitalize on the momentum the team has built the last few weeks and earn a career-best mark at the track.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates/One Cure Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Which of the three turns at Pocono is your favorite? Which is most challenging?
“My favorite corner at Pocono is, honestly – it’s probably – turn one. You can make up a lot of ground if you’re good through there. It comes into a pretty good compression and you can drive off, down into the corner. If the car turns pretty well, you can pick up the throttle really hard. And while I like turn one, the most important corner is probably turn three, leading onto the front straightaway.”
What are your overall thoughts on Pocono?
“It’s a neat place, definitely a unique track. It’s just an odd place to set the car up because the corners are so different. If you are really good in turn one, then maybe two and three are a little off. Or if you’re good in three, maybe one and two are different. I will say that the straightaway is enormous. There’s a lot of distance between turns three and one.”
Talk about the Tunnel Turn at Pocono and what makes it so tough.
“Well, the tunnel turn at Pocono is pretty flat. I think that’s really one of the big things that makes it so challenging. You need to carry a lot of speed and there’s not a lot of lifting that goes on. It’s flat, so I feel like that makes it harder and it really emphasizes issues with the car. And then, when there’s not banking to push the car into the track, then it’s really up to the driver to make sure you set the car right with the throttle, brake, and how you turn into the corner. All of those things make the Tunnel Turn tricky.”