INDIANAPOLIS — Danica Patrick will mark her eighth straight year of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Saturday. It’s a solid streak, but this season’s trip will be a different beast altogether.
Patrick hopes to build upon her wealth of Indy experience in the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ first-ever visit to the 2.5-mile speedway for Saturday’s Indiana 250 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). While Patrick certainly knows her way around the Brickyard, this will be her first Indy experience in a stock car, which weighs more than twice as much as the IndyCars she used to pilot.
Patrick is no stranger to firsts at Indianapolis — she became the first woman in track history to lead laps in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and notched a best finish of third place in the 2009 race.
“I have such good memories and feel so good when I come into the track and just see the facility,” Patrick said. “I think those good emotions, those positive emotions a lot of times can translate to a good weekend, so I look forward to that. I look forward to seeing the fans from Indianapolis. My family lives there — my sister and my parents do now — so it should be a fun weekend and I look forward to the experience in a stock car.”
Saturday’s race will also have extra incentive in the form of the Dash 4 Cash program, with points leader Elliott Sadler, defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett eligible for a $100,000 bonus that goes to the highest finisher among that quartet.
Six-figure payday or not, Sadler — last week’s winner at Chicagoland Speedway — suggests motivation won’t be a problem at one of NASCAR’s crown jewel tracks.
“It’s going to be a big deal,” Sadler said. “It’s always pretty special when you can win the inaugural race anywhere. I was able to do that in St. Louis in 1998 and I still look at that trophy and think that’s something no one can take away from you. We’re going to go there loaded for bear.”
Sadler holds an 11-point edge in the standings over Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon after 18 of 33 races this year. Stenhouse — like Sadler, a three-time Nationwide winner this season — ranks third, 19 points back.