BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Danica Patrick knows she can’t supply crowd-pleasing excitement or deliver top-five finishes every time she hits the track.
Sure, Patrick’s picture has been rotated around the city on three billboards for months ahead of the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, one encouraging locals to “See Danica Drive.” Certainly, she’ll be the most recognizable name – and face – running at a venue smack dab in NASCAR country.
For her part, Patrick isn’t promising to remain the center of attention once the racing begins Sunday.
“I’m not always going to have an exciting race, and I know that,” she said Friday. “It’s good when I do, because it’s good for me, it’s good for the sport, it’s good for everybody. If I don’t have an exciting race, I don’t. There’s nothing I can do about that, and that’s fine. I think the series is doing a good job of trying to make other drivers popular. I think that’s important. I don’t really feel any pressure.”
Patrick isn’t off to a drama-packed start. Her best finish in three Nationwide Series races was 31st. She was 15th out of 24 in the IndyCar opener in Brazil.
Patrick fared much better in St. Petersburg two weeks ago, maneuvering from 21st to seventh.
She knows the sharp turns and shorter straightaways will make strategy and quick pit stops key on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course.
It’s more about nuances than the smash ’em up, four-wide racing excitement offered down Interstate 20 at NASCAR’s Talladega Superspeedway.
Patrick’s answer: Watch closely.
“There’ll be no mystery that (with) road courses, there’s just not enough action,” Patrick said. “If you pay attention very closely to the race as a fan, you can find the excitement in the strategies and how it’s playing out.
“But you really need to know what you’re looking at and you need to have people tell you what’s going on, because it’s difficult to tell if you’re just sitting and watching or at home not paying enough attention.”
In other words, it’s about strategy.