CONCORD, N.C. – Despite being a marketing phenom whose myriad endorsement deals easily will outlast her racing career, Danica Patrick likes reminding people that success can drive her sponsorship portfolio, too.
She will be sporting a colorful and prominent reminder this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
Patrick revealed that TaxAct had bought the hood of her No. 10 Chevrolet after sponsoring her in the March 29 race at Martinsville Speedway, where she finished a season-best seventh.
“It was definitely a last-second thing that they were really happy about from Martinsville,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said Tuesday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where she helped announce ZZ Top’s May 24 prerace concert for the Coca-Cola 600. “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 is off to her best start in Sprint Cup this season, which marks a critical juncture. It’s a contract year for her and primary sponsor GoDaddy, which recently went public April 1 with Patrick helping ring in the occasion on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
“They had me doing a lot of crazy things on the floor like a conga line, pushups, ringing my own bell, riding the bull outside,” she said. “We had some fun with it. I was grateful they wanted me to be a part of it. We’ve grown up together as brands go. From the very beginning we’ve evolved a lot.”
GoDaddy has gone through major managerial changes over the past three years, including a new CEO and a shift in business strategy. The website hosting company also has been re-evaluating its NASCAR sponsorship and begun selling off some of its races (in addition to TaxAct backing Patrick at Martinsville; Aspen Dental also had the car last month at Auto Club Speedway and in September at Chicagoland Speedway).
If Patrick continues to produce results this year, it should quell concerns about future funding. She is ranked 15th in the points standings after her fifth top 10 in NASCAR’s premier series. Though her best finish is 16th (Atlanta Motor Speedway) in the other five races, she said the results aren’t indicative of speed.
“I’m surprised with how strong we’ve started out,” she said. “While we don’t have a lot of great results to show for how well we’ve done, there have been quite a few races we would have done much better. I’m well pleased with our program, and it makes me really excited to see what’s to come.”
Patrick, who was relaxed during a 20-minute group interview Tuesday after an off weekend (“I’ve had an extra five to six days of people saying, ‘Good job,’ from last weekend.”) credits the improvement mostly to being better prepared. In her first three races with crew chief Daniel Knost at the end of last season, she struggled throughout the first practice.
Knost, who worked with Patrick as the engineer for crew chief Greg Zipadelli during her initial 10-race foray into Cup in 2012, has given Patrick a better starting point in practice this year.
“It’s been an easy transition because I knew him,” she said. “I already liked him (and) trusted him. He’s been very honest with me even back in those days, so I think it was very easy from the get-go.”
It’s been much more difficult for boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is ranked 28th with new crew chief Nick Sandler.
“Every team goes through ebbs and flows of good and bad, (and) you’ve got to figure them out,” she said. “I know his team is working on it. I just reassure him you never forget how to drive, you just have to get the stuff underneath you that you need.
“I think Stewart-Haas is an example of what happens when you get better people and equipment underneath you. In a couple of years, we couldn’t hit our you know what with both hands. Now we’re the champions as a team (with Kevin Harvick). It takes hard work. Even when you’re not doing well, you’re working hard. I’ve experienced that plenty of times in my career. It just means you haven’t found it yet. I’m sure they will.”
Patrick said Stenhouse had been “in about as good a spirits as possible” and noted he had a good Speedweeks until he placed 29th in the Daytona 500.
Patrick, meanwhile, nearly missed the Daytona 500 before a dramatic rally in a qualifying race. She said that changed how she and Stenhouse dealt with disappointment together.
“From that point on, I said, ‘We’re going to celebrate the good days,’” she said. “Because I feel that’s the only complaint I have is we don’t usually have good days at the same time. So instead of celebrating one of us, it’s step back and let the other person have their bed day.
“But I’m going to flip it this year, and if I have a bad day, and he has a good day, we’re going to celebrate because the year gets way too long when you’re just down all the time. I think he’s done a good job with that. He continues to work hard. He believes in what I believe: That hard works pay off.”