KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Say the word “test” to just about anyone and there is usually a chill that will go up his or her spine. Any high school student will tell you he or she doesn’t like tests (unless you’re one of those really smart students who gets into someplace like Princeton).
But when it comes to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sometimes a test is a great thing – something even looked at with anticipation. That would be the case for Danica Patrick and the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet team as they look forward to the two-day testing session this week at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
The current NASCAR rules prohibit teams from testing at tracks the top three series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck) compete at during the season other than the season-opening test at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, any test at a newly paved racetrack, and any test sanctioned by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
So basically, testing is extremely limited, which makes it challenging for a new Sprint Cup driver like Patrick. Other than Daytona, her six other Sprint Cup Series starts have consisted of a couple of hours of practice, two qualifying laps and then going right into the race.
This week at Kansas will be different, however, as NASCAR has scheduled a two-day testing session Wednesday and Thursday prior to the three days of normal practice, qualifying and Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at the newly paved 1.5-mile Kansas oval. With new pavement and 17 to 20 degrees of variable banking in the turns – a change from the 15-degree banking there from 2001 through the spring of this year – NASCAR decided to schedule four hours of testing Wednesday, followed by four hours Thursday to allow teams to gather plenty of information so the fans can see the best race possible.
While the extra track time will be of immediate benefit to Patrick at Kansas for Sunday’s race, it will also help her prepare for a full-time Sprint Cup season in 2013. Intermediate tracks of 1.5 and 2 miles in length, like Kansas, are critical as they comprise 14 of the 36 races on the schedule.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet:
How beneficial are the extra two days of testing at Kansas, and does the new surface sort of “even the playing field” for you, a bit?
“The reason we picked Kansas in the first place was because there is extra testing and it will give me the opportunity to get more laps and get more comfortable. I think a new surface evens it out a little bit more, competition-wise, because no one is perfectly prepared from previous races with the setup. So, the extra testing will be good and that’s why it went on the schedule.”
Intermediate tracks of 1.5 and 2 miles in length make up 14 of the 36 Sprint Cup races on the schedule. Can you talk about your learning curve on those types of tracks?
“I think that, for me, I feel like 1.5-mile and bigger tracks and the higher grip tracks – I feel like there’s just more of a similarity to where I came from with the way the car loads up in the corner and the way you can feel the car pick up G-forces in the corner and you feel the load as opposed to the slippery and slower tracks. I was talking to Kasey Kahne about it a couple of months ago and he said the short tracks took him the longest to get used to. Both of us kind of having an open-wheel background, I think there’s just a relief to hear that, sometimes, and understand why the short tracks are a little bit harder. A lot of drivers come from short-track (pavement Late Model) racing, so that’s just a real comfort zone for them. I come from much more of the 1.5-mile, 200 mph speeds, so they’re a comfort zone for me.”
GREG ZIPADELLI, Race Strategist of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet:
How valuable are the two days of testing going to be for Danica at Kansas?
“I think any time you can test and get practice at the same place you’re going to race and do so on the same time, it’s important. It’s going to help her probably more than anyone else. Everyone else, they’re up here in a small group and she’s here, trying to play catch up, so I think she has the most to gain there. So, we’re definitely looking forward to a couple of days of testing there. She’s in the Nationwide car as well as the (Sprint) Cup car, so hopefully it will be a good weekend for her.”
DANICA PATRICK’S 2012 SPRINT CUP PERFORMANCE PROFILE
|2012||2/27||×Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway||29||38||Running, 138/202||0||$281,715|
|2012||5/12||×Darlington (S.C.) Raceway||38||31||Running, 362/368||0||$76,980|
|2012||5/27||Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway||40||30||Running, 295/400||0||$92,880|
|2012||8/25||=Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway||43||29||Crash, 434/500||0||$90,640|
|2012||9/2||×Atlanta Motor Speedway||23||29||Running, 321/327||0||$87,555|
|2012||9/16||Chicagoland Speedway||41||25||Running, 265/267||0||$90,630|
|2012||9/30||Dover (Del.) International Speedway||38||28||Running, 393/400||0||$75,135|
× Race length extended due to green-white-checkered finish.
= Qualifying set by practice speeds due to rain.