By: Farrah Kaye
While the Nationwide Series had an off weekend, Danica Patrick set her sights on another new adventure. Invited by team owner Tony Stewart, Patrick headed to Rossburg, Ohio and Eldora Speedway for the eighth annual Prelude To The Dream, a Dirt Late Model Race with proceeds benefiting Feed The Children on June 6th.
The race has become a tradition over the years, with the roster now including drivers from across NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar and the World of Outlaws. Eldora Speedway is a half-mile clay oval and the race included hot laps, qualifying, heat races and a 40-lap feature with double-file restarts. The top 10 finishers of the race chose a city to have Feed the Children send a food truck to.
Drivers in the race included Tony Kanaan (IndyCar), Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon (NHRA) and Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz (World of Outlaws). NASCAR drivers included Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Aric Almirola, Kenny Wallace, Kenny Schrader, Kurt and Kyle Busch and Austin and Ty Dillon.
Many eyes were on Patrick – as they usually are – since this was her first time racing at the dirt track.
“She’s never driven anything like this and I don’t think she’s really been on dirt, ever. So I’ll tell her the same thing we’ve told everybody else who comes – try to go out and follow somebody who’s been around there before, and they can show you how to do it,” said Stewart. “You’re going to be able to learn something by following them, and you’ll get an idea of the rhythm and the pace of how to get around there. But it’s a tricky place to learn, so we’ll see how she adapts.”
Patrick, herself, was looking forward to the race.
“I think it’s a really great format for a bunch of drivers, unique drivers, to be able to get together and race it out, and raise money for Feed The Children,” she said. “It will be fun to be able to bump and bang and get out there and just have fun. It counts for everything and it counts for nothing. It’s very important, but it’s a time to have a good time.”
“I have been to a dirt track before. My sister and I, when we were kids, which was probably kind of why we got into racing, we would go and we’d hang out in the stands and my dad would be working down in the pits because we weren’t old enough to be down there.”
As for her experience on dirt, her time was limited.
“I raced on dirt one time in my life in a Go-Kart. It was at Charlotte, actually. There’s a little dirt track outside of the back straightway. I was probably 14 years old, so, we’re talking about 15 years ago, so I don’t even remember. I just remember that I didn’t suck, so that’s good,” Patrick shared. “But it’s definitely not something I have a lot of experience with. My dad used to race on dirt and, in the winter when it would snow, he’d call it rallying. He’d say, ‘Let’s go rallying,’ and he would drive sideways around the neighborhood. And it wasn’t my thing. So, I hope I’ve got some genetics for racing on dirt. And getting it sideways.”
Patrick finished 15th in the race, after hitting the wall. She couldn’t keep up with the leaders but took the time to learn more about dirt.
“I realized early that I wasn’t really in the mix, so I figured I would take the chance to get comfortable driving sideways a little bit more as I’ve found that that helps in driving a stock car. I was just feeling it out and I really wanted to bring the car home without balling it up,” Patrick said. “It was a good experience for me but, more than anything, I’m proud to be a part of this event. Tony is definitely my role model for charity work. This is a big deal. It’s very cool that he puts this on, and it’s obviously his party, but he invites all of his friends and that’s cool.”
Patrick will be back behind the wheel of the No. 7 GoDaddy machine in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in Michigan next weekend.
Farrah Kaye is a NASCAR columnist for CBS Local Sports and is a member of the NMPA. Her previous articles have appeared on SPEEDtv.com, newsweek.com and she holds a degree in Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @Farrah_Kaye.