TALLADEGA, Ala. — Danica Patrick is expanding her Sprint Cup sponsor lineup next season, adding Aspen Dental as a primary backer for two races on the No. 10 Chevrolet.
Patrick will sport the blue and white of Aspen Dental (which had sponsored Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman for a handful of races the past two seasons) in the March 9 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Aug. 31 event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Her SS will bear the familiar GoDaddy-emblazoned green for the remainder of the season.
“I always enjoy different paint (schemes), they’ll be special races,” Patrick said. “GoDaddy is a great partner as well. It’s great this partnership happened, and that they’re both excited about it.”
Patrick is enthused about her weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500 marks the final restrictor-plate race of the season, and Patrick has displayed a knack for mastering the draft. She finished a career-best eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500 after starting from the pole position. Patrick finished 14th in the July 6 race at Daytona International Speedway.
Though she crashed and was 33rd in her May debut at Talladega, she said preparing for and racing at the 2.66-mile track is very similar to Daytona. After getting shuffled out of third on the final lap of the Daytona 500, she believes she has learned enough about the finicky draft to make the right moves at the end of the race.
“I feel more comfortable,” she said. “I think that I’m realizing how important it is throughout the race to try things and practice taking runs and being a little bit more brave with not worrying about what happens as a result. Knowing that as long as you don’t lose the draft, you can be set up for the end of the race. I’ve lost the draft and that’s not good either.
“But I was ready at the beginning. I think as a race car driver when you get to this level, you’re ready for anything that comes at you.”
Patrick was prepared for the restrictor-plate style by her experience on 1.5-mile speedways in IndyCar, where holding the accelerator to the floor every lap also is necessary. Patrick’s lone win in IndyCar came at the 1.5-mile oval in Motegi, Japan.
“Having a good attitude always helps,” she said. “IndyCar racing was much like this kind of racing. Visually, it’s very familiar racing to me. The aerodynamics work different, but as far as needing to keep the momentum up, it’s very similar. Then it’s also being with good teams that have good speedway cars.”
Restrictor-plate results have been among the few highlight of Patrick’s rookie season in NASCAR’s premier series. She has four top-15 finishes with Daytona as her only top 10
Ranked 28th in the points standings, Patrick was asked to assess her progress Friday.
“I’m right where I need to be; right where I was going to be,” she said. “All I know is I’ve done everything I can to prepare for the year, to learn throughout the year. That’s going to lead into next year and trying to really put it all together to get great results.
“I don’t think you can ever plan how it’s going to go or give yourself a grade because everyone learns at a different rate. There are times I was probably unexpectedly better than they thought and worse than they thought. It’s just my own personal progression and everyone’s is different.”