Danica Patrick is on the pole not only for the Daytona 500, but also for the Budweiser Duel race #1. Patrick is locked into the Daytona 500 and has little to prove in this race. That said, there are many things to be learned from a Duel race. Avoiding mistakes should be her goal.
Mistakes Danica Patrick Must Avoid in Her Daytona Duel Race
- Trying to win the race: Patrick needs to come out of this race without a scratch on her car. It’s fast and she’s proved that. Bumping and grinding for a meaningless win – and in the process damaging a top notch race car – would be foolish.
- Run around in the back of the field: Patrick learns nothing watching the race from the back of the field. She needs to use her opportunity of starting at the front of the pack to run hard when the green flag drops. Teammate/owner Tony Stewart starts right behind her in position 3. Use this opportunity to get a feel for, and learn bump drafting on the straights - with someone you trust. This is a learning opportunity that will count where it should – the Daytona 500.
- Get caught in the middle (3-wide): When I was learning to drive (many years ago,) one of the key take-aways from my instructor was “leave yourself an out.” I took it as leave room around you because there are lots of idiots on the road; have a place to go when someone does something crazy. The middle at Daytona is no man’s land (or woman’s in this case.) There is nowhere to go when all heck breaks out. Hug the yellow line.
- Never running in the middle of the pack: Patrick needs to experience running in the middle of the pack. She can’t go into the Daytona 500 without learning how the race car handles in traffic. She needs to run some laps there to find out what her car wants to do.
Mistakes Avoided – Now What?: Potential Duel Race Strategy
Patrick drives for one of the best drivers in the business. Learn from Tony Stewart at the outset of the race. Run hard but race smart. After a few laps running towards the front, drop back into the pack and learn how the car runs there. Minimize the time in the pack and hug the yellow line. 5-10 laps should be plenty to get a feel for her race car. Everything Patrick needs to know for the Daytona 500 can be learned in the first 25 laps. At this point it’s time to enjoy the race in the small pack of locked-in cars that will be running at the back.
Danica Patrick’s “Weight Advantage”
There is also a developing controversy regarding Danica Patrick’s “weight advantage” that allegedly gives her an edge in NASCAR. A newspaper writer blogged that NASCAR only adds weight to the race car for drivers down to 140 pounds. Danica weighs ~110 pounds, hence the possible advantage. On the other hand, Brad Keselowski has tweeted that the opposite is true for Daytona. Keselowski says that since Patrick is lighter, that the spoiler is higher in the air and it could slow her down. Anyway, I doubt we’ve heard the last of this interesting topic.
Finally, I recommend this post about Danica Patrick’s historic NASCAR achievement.
The Daytona Duels will be on Thursday, February 21 at 2 p.m. at the Daytona International Raceway. Check out my Daytona 500 race coverage and details page.