Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will switch things up this week as drivers will be making both left and right turns when they visit Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway for the first of two road-course events this season.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Sonoma with 11 races under her belt at the track dating back to 2005. However, seven of those starts came in the IndyCar Series and unfortunately won’t offer much assistance to Patrick as she competes in Sunday’s Save Mart 350k NASCAR Cup Series event.
The IndyCar Series utilized two different Sonoma road-course layouts during the seven years Patrick competed there and neither is identical to the 1.99-mile, 10-turn configuration she will drive Sunday.
Patrick’s top NASCAR Cup Series result at the track is an 18th-place finish she scored in 2014. The following year, her hopes of earning another top-20 at the track were dashed when late-race contact forced Patrick off course and left her with a 24th-place finish.
Last year, Patrick started 11th and took the checkered flag in the 19th position after the team’s race strategy was hindered by ill-timed cautions.
When Patrick gets to Sonoma this weekend, her No. 10 Ford will carry the white and blue colors of Code 3 Associates. The organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to providing professional animal disaster response and resources to communities, as well as administering professional training to individuals and agencies involved in animal-related law enforcement and emergency response. Its mission is accomplished through hands-on animal rescue and care operations during disaster events in the United States and Canada, and through certified animal welfare training seminars, which include animal cruelty training for investigators.
As the team prepares for the weekend ahead, Patrick will be looking to have a smooth and clean race, remain on course and notch another solid run in the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford at Sonoma.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
There are only two road-course races on the NASCAR schedule, but they’re two of the most talked about and anticipated races of the year. Why is that?
“Road-course racing is something we don’t do a lot of and I think they are some fun races to watch because the cars don’t really handle very well. Our cars are like big buses trying to get around a racetrack and we’re sliding around, our brake zones are very long, tires go off and those are things that create passing opportunities.”
Is it a breath of fresh air to turn right and left, or do you have to psyche yourself up a bit to compete on a road course?
“Yeah, I feel like I have to psyche myself up a little bit in my approach about being aggressive and hitting the curbs and the ‘it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be fast’ kind of attitude. But it’s fun. I mean, as long you can come out of the box with that and kind of start that rhythm, it’s easier to maintain all weekend, then.”
What are the keys to racing at Sonoma?
“I think, at Sonoma, you have to get through the high-speed esses comfortably, which leads to a good high-speed balance. Power down is also important there because it’s easy for the rear tires to just spin all the time. The fast lap times come from the high-speed balance, so that is the key for me and the Code 3 Associates team.”
What is it about the road courses that you enjoy?
“I’m very used to racing on road courses. That’s how I grew up in go-karting. It’s what I did in Europe when I raced and it’s what IndyCar Racing really became before I left. There were three IndyCar road-course races when I started and, by the end, the majority of the races were on road courses – I think it was eight or nine races. So, I’m super familiar and super comfortable on road courses, but jumping into a stock car on a road course does feel a lot different than a lot of the other cars I’ve driven before on a road course. It still makes for great races because the braking zones are longer in stock cars, which allows more opportunities for passing.”
What is the hardest part about road racing?
“The hardest part of road racing is just putting a whole lap together. The hardest part of road racing is just nailing every corner and doing it consistently when it counts.”