JOLIET, Ill. – After spending more than half the year on the road, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick is glad to be back in her home state of Illinois.
The driver of the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet grew up in Roscoe, Ill, just outside of Rockford, the state’s second-largest city and less than two hours from Chicagoland Speedway.
“As a kid, I loved going into the city and downtown Chicago,” Patrick said. “It’s a beautiful place. We have some friends coming out to the track this weekend. It’s close to home and that’s good, We’ll see some familiar faces, and hopefully we can have a good weekend.”
Patrick has two prior starts at Chicagoland Speedway in a Nationwide Series car, finishing 24th in her debut in 2010, and then showing dramatic improvement with a 10th-place finish there last year.
“The mile-and-a-halfs are definitely more of our strength,” said Patrick, currently ninth in the Nationwide standings. “It was a decent race here last year. Fuel came into play a little bit at the end, and it very well could again.
“Watching past races, there’s not always a ton of yellows here. We’ll just work on having a good, consistent car here this weekend.”
There will be one distinct difference from last year’s to race to Sunday’s, though: the 2011 event was run under the lights, while Sunday’s race will be in the heat of the afternoon.
“I don’t think it’ll make a huge difference,” Patrick said. “The car does transition through a little bit of changes as it gets cooler and darker, but it’s usually not so far out of the ballpark that you can’t make little adjustments through the race, keep up with it and fix a problem.
“Maybe if it’s hot and slippery like it’s supposed to be (temperatures are expected in the low-to-mid 90s), there could be more opportunities for yellows happening during the race just because it’s more challenging conditions.”
Patrick returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend to race for the first time since she became a full-time NASCAR competitor this season.
But instead of driving an Indy car, she’ll be competing in the first-ever Nationwide Series race to be held at the fabled Brickyard.
Patrick is prepared for a much different event, having already strategized what she’ll have to do behind the wheel of a much different vehicle.
“In an Indy car, there’s no lifting and it’s right around the bottom of the track, and it’s a big, high-speed chess match with cars running very close to each other,” Patrick said. “In a stock car, you run a more traditional line, there’s lifting and perspective-wise, they definitely have a different feel based on the lines you run, and the fact that in IndyCar, you sit so low.
“It happens everywhere I go and when I’ve been there in an Indy car to a stock car, it’s always just a little bit different.”