DANICA PATRICK: The Andretti-Green Years
In 2007 Danica joined the Andretti-Green team, a four-car operation featuring veterans Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan and second-year driver Marco Andretti, the 2006 IRL Rookie of the Year. Marco was already a racewinner in 2006 at Sears Point with a runnerup finish in his rookie effort in the 2006 Indianapolis 500. The team was coming off a season with a 6-7-8 finish in the point standings (Kanaan-Andretti-Franchitti) with Patrick taking the place of the now-retired Bryan Herta (eleventh in 2006 points).
Patrick’s Andretti-Green debut came at Homestead, beginning with a thirteenth-place qualifying run and ending after 154 laps due to her first accident-caused retirement since Sears Point 2005. Franchitti led the team with a third-place start and Kanaan led the Andretti-Green finishers by taking fifth.
Danica qualified eleventh on the St. Petersburg street circuit and finished eighth, two spots shy of her 2006 result. Marco Andretti led the team in qualifying by taking second on the grid and Tony Kanaan led the team finishers by taking third. Motegi saw a welcome return to the ranks of top qualifers by Danica as she placed fourth, her best start since the 2005 finale at California Speedway. She finished eleventh, two laps down. Tony Kanaan won after starting third as he led the team. Patrick qualified tenth at Kansas and finished seventh, two laps down. Kanaan won the pole and Franchitti led the team at the finish in second with Danica’s seventh second-best on the squad. The 2007 Indianapolis 500 produced a good result for Danica, as she started and finished eighth, on the lead lap, in the chaotic, rain-shortened event. Kanaan led the team with a runnerup start but Dario Franchitti won the race! Danica’s eighth was second-best on the team. Milwaukee was controversial for Patrick. She started a lowly seventeenth and had contact with Dan Wheldon on lap 89. Nevertheless, she finished eighth, on the lead lap. Kanaan led the team by starting third and then winning the race; after six 2007 races, the team had three wins, two by Kanaan and one by Franchitti.
Texas 2007 marked two important Danica Patrick milestones. For the first time since the 2005 California season finale, Danica led an IRL race (laps 193-194 of the 228-lap race) and, after starting sixth, Danica finished third, earning her first-ever IRL podium finish! Dario Franchitti led the team in qualifying, starting third, and Tony Kanaan just beat Danica for the finish honors by taking the runnerup spot!
The Iowa Speedway short oval made its IRL debut in 2007 and Danica qualified eleventh. She led lap 76 but a multi-car wreck on lap 100 ended her day, placing her thirteenth. Dario Franchitti led the team by starting third and winning the race. The Richmond short oval was next and Danica rebounded, qualifying eighth and finishing sixth, on the lead lap, her best result and first lead-lap finish in three Richmond IRL races. Franchitti won for the second consecutive race, this time from the pole.
Danica’s Watkins Glen result was pedestrian; she qualified fifteenth and finished eleventh, on the lead lap. Franchitti led the team by qualifying third and finishing third. Danica started seventh on the Nashville oval and finished third, just one short of team leader Dario who finished second after starting second. The result was the second podium of 2007 for Danica and the second of her IRL career. She followed up by posting her best-ever road course qualification, second, at Mid-Ohio, as for the first time in her Andretti-Green career she led the team in qualifying. She finished fifth, on the lead lap, achieving her first-ever road course Top Five finish! Franchitti led the team with a runnerup finish.
The Michigan 400 was a good race for Danica; she started ninth, set Fast Lap during the race, and led twice for five laps (144-145 and 159-161) before finishing seventh, on the lead lap. Dario Franchitti won the pole and Tony Kanaan won the race as Andretti-Green swept the honors!
Kentucky 2007 was not a highlight for Danica. She qualified only eleventh and wrecked exiting the pits on lap 181, retiring and placing sixteenth. Teammate Tony Kanaan won the race from the pole. Danica bounced back at Sears Point (Infineon), however, qualifying second (as she had at the previous road course, Mid-Ohio) and finishing sixth, on the lead lap. Franchitti took the pole and finished third to lead the team.
In a chaotic race ending under a yellow flag, Danica Patrick achieved her career-best IRL finish to that point, a runnerup finish, on the street circuit in Detroit. Patrick started eleventh but led nine laps (57-65) before finishing behind teammate Tony Kanaan. Franchitti led the team in qualifying, starting second.
In the 2007 finale at Chicagoland, Danica started seventh but ruined her race by spinning at the pit entrance on lap 195, dropping her to eleventh, two laps down, at the finish. Teammate Dario Franchitti wrapped up the 2007 title by winning the race from the pole!
In the seventeen-race 2007 IRL season, Danica Patrick earned three podium finishes (a runnerup and two thirds), four Top Five finishes, eleven Top Ten finishes, three Top Five starts (including two runnerup starts), set one Fast Lap, led four races for a total of seventeen laps, and suffered three accident-caused retirements. Danica’s 2007 IRL average finish was 8.18, her average start 8.94, her average team finish 2.88, and her average team start 3.12. Danica never led the team in race finish ranking although she was second-ranking on the team five times; Dario Franchitti led the team nine times, Tony Kanaan eight. Danica led the team in qualifying only once (second at Mid-Ohio) as Dario was best qualifier ten times to five times for Kanaan and one for Marco Andretti.
Dario Franchitti won the 2007 IRL title with teammate Tony Kanaan third and Danica seventh in her best result yet in IRL points. Marco Andretti finished eleventh in points. Although Danica was off the pace of the experienced Franchitti and Kanaan in 2007 she fared better than Marco Andretti in the race results.
The Andretti-Green squad underwent one change for 2008: Dario Franchitti left for NASCAR with Chip Ganassi and Hideki Mutoh, a competitor to Danica as far back as 1999 in British Formula Vauxhall, joined the team. The sport underwent change, as well, as “the split” was over and ChampCar was no more, with several ChampCar teams joining the IRL.
The 2008 season began well for Danica. She qualified second at Homestead, leading the team, and finished sixth, only one lap down. Marco Andretti led the team with a runnerup finish. The St. Petersburg race was disappointing for Danica as she qualified only nineteenth and finished tenth, on the lead lap. Tony Kanaan led the team by winning the pole and finishing third.
The April 20, 2008 Motegi race made history as Danica won, scoring the first Indycar victory by a woman! Danica qualified sixth but strategy led to her leading the final three laps en route to victory over Helio Castroneves. Back in the USA, Danica led the team in qualifying for Kansas by starting third but her first mechanical retirement at Andretti-Green placed her nineteenth. Kanaan led the team with a runnerup finish.
After the high of Motegi, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 was a relative low for Danica. Her fifth-place qualification led the team but a lap 172 pit road accident with Ryan Briscoe ended her day, placing her twenty-second. Marco Andretti led the team with a third-place finish. Milwaukee was another disappointment as she qualified thirteenth and finished ninth, one lap down. Marco won the pole and Kanaan led the team at the finish by taking third.
Danica just missed leading the team in Texas qualifications, ranking fifth to Hideki Mutoh’s fourth, but she finished only tenth, one lap down. Kanaan led the team by finishing fifth, the first time in seven 2008 races that Andretti-Green hadn’t placed a car in the top three. The short oval Iowa Speedway race saw Danica competitive but just short of contender status, starting and finishing sixth, on the lead lap. Kanaan led the team by starting fourth but Mutoh scored his best finish to date, second, to lead the team at the finish. The other short oval at Richmond saw Danica start deep in the pack in fourteenth but rise to sixth, on the lead lap, at the finish. Tony Kanaan won the race from the pole in what was to be the season’s final win for Andretti-Green.
Watkins Glen was another disappointment for Danica, a fourteenth-place finish from a fourteenth-place start. Kanaan led the team, finishing third after starting sixth. The Nashville oval saw a rebound by Danica as she led the team by qualifying second. Danica finished fifth, on the lead lap, just behind team leader Tony Kanaan in fourth.
The Mid-Ohio road course produced another unsatisfying result for Patrick, as she started a lowly twentieth and finished twelfth, on the lead lap. Marco Andretti led the team by qualifying third but the best Andretti-Green finish was Kanaan in seventh, the worst top finish by the team to date in 2008. The results were even worse on the Edmonton airport circuit, as Danica started fourteenth and finished eighteenth, three laps down. The best Andretti-Green qualifier was Marco in twelfth and the best finisher Kanaan in ninth!
After starting twenty-sixth on the Kentucky oval, Danica finished eleventh, only one lap down, even leading one lap (lap 53). Mutoh led the team in qualifying, starting fourth, and Andretti led the team at the finish, taking third. The Sears Point (Infineon) road course finally gave Danica a 2008 road course result of distinction as she started ninth but finished fifth, on the lead lap. Kanaan led the team by starting fourth and finishing third.
Danica started tenth on the Detroit street circuit (second on the team to Kanaan’s eighth) but contact on lap 34 with Vitor Meira and E.J. Viso hampered her run as she finished sixteenth, one lap down. Kanaan’s third-place finish led the team. Patrick put in a strong qualifying run in the point season finale at Chicagoland, leading the team with a third-place start, but finished tenth, on the lead lap. Kanaan led the team with a fourth-place finish.
2008 ended with a non-point event, the Surfers Paradise street race in Australia. Danica had a miserable time, starting twenty-third and finishing eighteenth, two laps down. Kanaan led the team in qualifying, starting eighth, but Mutoh led the team at the finish, also in eighth.
Danica Patrick ended the 17-race 2008 IRL season with one win (Motegi), one podium finish (Motegi), three Top Five finishes, ten Top Ten finishes, six Top Five starts (including two seconds and two thirds), two races led for a total of four laps, one mechanical retirement, and one accident-caused retirement. Danica’s 2008 IRL average finish was 10.6 (11.0 including Surfers). Her average start was 10.05 (10.78 including Surfers), her average team finish rank was 2.71 (2.72 including Surfers) and her average team start rank was 2.35 (2.44 including Surfers). Danica led the team in finishing position once (the Motegi win) and ranked second five times; Tony Kanaan led the team twelve times, Marco Andretti three times, Hideki Mutoh two. Danica led the team in qualifying five times and ranked second five times; Kanaan led eight times, Marco Andretti three, and Hideki Mutoh two. All four Andretti-Green drivers finished in the Top Ten in IRL points! Kanaan placed third, Danica sixth for her best yet as she improved each year of her career (12-9-7-6), Marco Andretti seventh, and Hideki Mutoh tenth. For the first time in her career, Danica was also the highest-ranking driver from the United States!
Danica began the 2009 season by contesting the Daytona 24 Hours GARRA Rolex series classic, sharing the Richard Childress Racing Pontiac-powered Crawford with Rob Finlay, Casey Mears, and endurance star Andy Wallace. The quartet finished eighth overall and in class, completing 702 laps of the 735-lap race.
The Andretti-Green lineup for the 2009 was unchanged. Danica entered the season as the team’s second-ranked driver in points, again ahead of Marco Andretti with Hideki Mutoh ranking fourth.
The 2009 IRL season began with two street circuit races, the opener at St. Petersburg followed by the classic Long Beach race. St. Petersburg was unproductive for Danica, with a fifteenth-place start and retirement after thirty-one laps due to an accident involving contact with an aggressive Raphael Matos. Kanaan led the team, finishing fifth after starting third. Long Beach started poorly for Danica from twenty-second on the grid but ended with a good fourth-place, lead-lap finish, just behind third-finishing team leader Kanaan.
Returning to the ovals, Danica led the team in qualifying third at Kansas and finished fifth, on the lead lap, second on the team to Kanaan’s third-place finish. Danica then achieved another milestone! After qualifying tenth for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, Danica set a new record for a woman by finishing third! This finish led the Andretti-Green team as well.
The Milwaukee race produced another milestone for Danica; for the first time at Andretti-Green, Danica was the team’s leading finisher for a second consecutive race. Danica started seventh (the team’s qualifying was led by Kanaan in third) and finished fifth, on the lead lap. Danica then led the team in qualifying for Texas, starting fifth. She finished sixth, on the lead lap, second on the team to Marco Andretti’s fourth. Danica again led the team in qualifying, this time on the Iowa Speedway short oval, again qualifying fifth. She led two times (36-57 and 198-199) for twenty-four laps but finished ninth, one lap down. Hideki Mutoh led the team with a third-place finish. Patrick qualified tenth for the Richmond short oval race (second on the team to Mutoh’s eighth) and finished fifth, on the lead lap, second on the team to Mutoh’s fourth. Danica now had a streak of seven consecutive Top Ten finishes.
After six consecutive ovals, the schedule then shifted to a road course followed by two street circuits. Danica led the team in qualifying seventh at Watkins Glen but finished eleventh, on the lead lap, ending her Top Ten finish streak. Marco Andretti’s fifth-place finish led the team. Danica started eighteenth on the Toronto street circuit but her effort wasn’t as bad as it sounds as Marco Andretti led the team by qualifying seventeenth! Patrick recovered to finish sixth in the race as she led the team. The Edmonton airport circuit saw Danica start twentieth and finish eleventh, one lap down. Mutoh led the A-G effort in qualifying in twelfth and Marco just beat Danica for best finish in tenth. This three-race stretch was the team’s worst period of 2009.
The Kentucky oval race saw Danica lead the team in qualifying, starting fifth. She led two laps in the race (178-179) before finishing eighth, on the lead lap. Tony Kanaan led the team with a third-place finish. Danica started twelfth on the Mid-Ohio road course and her race was marred by lap 45 contact with Mike Conway, causing her to finish nineteenth, two laps down. Kanaan led the team with eighth in qualifying and Hideki Mutoh posted the best finish for A-G in fifth.
The Sears Point (Infineon) road course saw Danica finish fourth and last on her team for the second consecutive race. She started eleventh and finished sixteenth, one lap down. Marco Andretti led the team with a fourth-place qualifying effort and Mutoh led the team at the finish with a fifth-place finish for the second consecutive race.
The Chicagoland oval race was disappointing for the Andretti-Green team, producing its worst result of the year. Danica qualified tenth and finished twelfth, on the lead lap, just one spot behind team leader Marco Andretti in eleventh. Hopes for a triumphant return to Motegi fell short for Danica but she did lead the team in qualifying with a sixth-place start and at the finish as she took sixth place, on the lead lap. Danica also led the team in qualifying for the Homestead finale as she started seventh but problems caused her to finish nineteenth, fifteen laps down. Tony Kanaan finished fourth to lead the team.
Danica Patrick finished the 17-race 2009 IRL season with one podium finish (third in the Indianapolis 500), five Top Five finishes, ten Top Ten finishes, four Top Five starts (a third and three fifths), two races led for a total of twenty-six laps, and one accident-caused retirement. Danica’s 2009 IRL average finish was 9.65, her average start 10.18. Danica’s 2009 IRL average team finish rank was 2.24 and her average team start rank was also 2.24. Danica led the team’s finishers four times (Tony Kanaan five, Marco Andretti four, Hideki Mutoh four) and led the team in starting position seven times (Tony Kanaan six, Marco Andretti two, Hideki Mutoh two).
All four Andretti-Green drivers finished in the top eleven positions in the 2009 IRL point standings. Danica Patrick finished fifth, Tony Kanaan sixth, Marco Andretti eighth, and Hideki Mutoh eleventh. Danica’s fifth ranking is her best yet and continues her progression up the standings (12-9-7-6-5) and for the second consecutive year she is also the highest ranking driver from the United States! Danica was the highest-ranked driver on her multi-car team for the second time in her career.
In Danica Patrick’s 82-race (including the 2008 non-point Surfers Paradise event) IRL career, Danica has one win (2008 Motegi), five podium finishes (one win, one second, three thirds), sixteen Top Five finishes, forty-six Top Ten finishes, three poles, and 110 laps led. She has posted an average finish of 10.17, an average start of 9.96, an average team finish rank of 2.34, and an average team start rank of 2.27. She has led her multi-car team to the finish in 15 races and has led her multi-car team in starting positions in 29 races.
Thus far in Danica’s fifty-two races with Andretti-Green she has led the team at the finish five times. Veteran Tony Kanaan has led the team at the finish twenty-five times to nine for Dario Franchitti, seven for Marco Andretti, and six for Hideki Mutoh. In qualifying, Danica has led the team thirteen times. Kanaan led the team in qualifying for nineteen races, Dario Franchitti led the team ten times, Marco Andretti for six races, and Hideki Mutoh for four.
Evaluating Danica’s career by venue, it is clear that Indianapolis is her best venue. Danica has never qualified lower than tenth (2006 and 2009) and has an average start of 7.4. Other than her accident-caused retirement in 2008, she has finished third and fourth plus two eighths. She has led her team in qualifying three times and has led her team at the finish twice with two second-ranking finishes.
Motegi has produced a win (2008), four Top Ten finishes and an eleventh (2007) for an average finish of 6.0 and rivals Indianapolis for results; nevertheless, Danica has been more competitive at Indianapolis in racing conditions.
Danica has contested fifty-seven oval IRL races, posting an average finish of 9.70 from an average start of 8.32 Her average team finish rank is 2.16 and her average team start rank is 2.01. She has led her team at the finish of an oval race twelve times (21.1%) and has led her team in oval qualifying twenty-six times (45.6%).
Danica’s performance on street circuits rank second of the three venue types. In twelve street circuit races (including the Edmonton airport course) she has an average finish of 10.83 from an average start of 16.0, an average team finish rank of 2.58 and an average team start rank of 3.0. She has led her team at the finish of a street circuit race twice but has never led her team in qualifying for a street circuit race. Her best finish, second, came in the 2007 Detroit race and is her only podium finish in a street race. She has two Top Five and six Top Ten finishes in the twelve races. Her best qualifying position for a street race, tenth, came in the 2008 Detroit event.
Patrick’s efforts on the traditional road courses rank third of the three venue types. In thirteen road course races she has an average finish of 11.62 from an average start of 11.62, an average team finish rank of 2.92, and an average team start rank of 2.69. She has led her team at the finish of a traditional road course race only once (2005 Watkins Glen) in a very poor race for Rahal/Letterman when Danica’s sixteenth was the best result! She has led her team in qualifying three times, most notably with a runnerup start at Mid-Ohio in 2007. Danica’s best finish on a road course has been fifth twice (2007 Mid-Ohio, 2008 Sears Point). She has five Top Ten finishes and two starts of second (2007 Mid-Ohio and Sears Point).
Danica’s five years in the IRL have been marked by new records for a woman across the board in both the series and in the Indianapolis 500. She has won a race, finished in the Top Five and Top Ten consistently, and has shown the ability to be a contender for victory in the Indianapolis 500 and a potential threat on other oval tracks. She has improved her ranking in the Indycar point hierarchy each year. Her qualifying on oval tracks is statistically superior to her race finishes. She has yet to demonstrate consistency on street and temporary circuits and traditional road courses, a skill less important in the early years of the IRL but more important as the schedule includes more of these venues. Danica is in the unique position of being the first woman to be the highest-ranked US driver in Indycar racing and has held that honor the last two years.