It’s mostly been rough sledding for Danica Patrick in her first full season in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series.
But this Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama offers Patrick a strong opportunity to make history as the first woman to win a Cup event.
Talladega and Daytona International Speedway are the two high-speed venues known as “restrictor-plate tracks,” where NASCAR caps the cars’ horsepower for safety reasons.
The result is that the cars race in closely bunched packs, making it possible for nearly any driver to take the checkered flag, especially if they couple up with a drafting partner that gives them a helpful push to the finish.
That’s what happened in the May race at the 2.66-mile Talladega track, where David Ragan won only his second career Cup race with a push from teammate David Gilliland.
Patrick, a former IndyCar racer, also has shown a knack for restrictor-plate racing. She won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 -- the first woman to win a Cup pole -- and she finished eighth in the race, her only top-10 finish so far this season.
Patrick otherwise has struggled to finish in the top 20 each week in her No. 10 Chevrolet, and she’s 28th in the series standings.
Of course, Talladega also is known for multi-car wrecks with the cars running so close together, and Patrick finished 33rd in the May race after being collected in a late accident.
Still, “it’s a toss-up what’s going to happen” at Talladega, Patrick said in notes released by her Stewart-Haas Racing team. “Someone like me has more of a shot there.”