How did Danica Patrick persuade sponsor to pick up additional race?
Prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Stewart-Haas Racing officials announced that TaxACT would be a primary sponsor for Danica Patrick in two races in 2015.
Make that three.
Lured by Patrick’s season-best seventh-place finish at Martinsville Speedway last time out, the tax preparation company bought the hood of the No. 10 Chevrolet for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (FOX Sports, 7:30 p.m. ET).
TaxACT served as a primary sponsor of Patrick at Martinsville and in February’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona.
Clearly happy with the good exposure received from Patrick’s strong Martinsville showing, the sponsor decided to come on board for Saturday night’s 500-mile race held under the lights in prime time.
"It was definitely a last-second thing that they were really happy about from Martinsville," Patrick said during a promotional stop this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "I’ve always said when I do well, things happen. That’s an example of that.
"If I never, ever had good weekends, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Of course, I’d like to have them more than I do, but when I do, it’s a good perk with everything from media to the sponsors."
Patrick’s seventh-place finish at Martinsville marked the fifth top 10 of her Sprint Cup career and her first top 10 in six races this season.
Saturday night’s race in the Lone Star State will be Patrick’s 10th start with crew chief Daniel Knost, who joined Patrick’s team ahead of last November’s Texas race after Stewart-Haas officials decided to swap the crew chiefs of Patrick and teammate Kurt Busch.
After finishing no better than 18th in three outings with Knost last season, Patrick has come home inside the top 20 in three of this season’s first six races.
With a new sponsor commitment and better overall results, Patrick is understandably upbeat heading into the weekend.
"I’m just glad that we’ve had enough good days to start the season off that I feel very optimistic about the rest of the year," Patrick said. "We’re off to a nice start, and I wasn’t expecting to be quite so good to start off the year. My crew chief, Daniel, has done a great job of preparing for the season from a car perspective, a personnel perspective and from a setup perspective, and it’s really put us where we are right now."
Knost, a former Stewart-Haas engineer who has a history with Patrick, sees Martinsville as merely one example of the team’s improvement compared with 2014.
"It’s more than just from Martinsville," Knost said. "We’ve had strong cars at Atlanta and California, which are big tracks that to me are similar to Texas. We did well at Martinsville, too. In general, we have positive momentum behind us going into this weekend."
It’s momentum that Patrick hopes to keep going, rather than resting on her present laurels.
"The season has been better than I expected it to be to start off, but I think there’s definitely a lot of room to improve," she said. "Daniel does a great job of bringing a good car and a good setup each weekend. I think we need to work on making the car better in practice more often. You’re not going to make every change work and make the car better.
"That’s all a part of the learning experience. While we might not have a lot of great results to show for what we’ve done, I think there have been quite a few races where we would have done much better, and that makes me pretty optimistic moving forward."