DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – After a speaking engagement in Grand Cayman, Danica Patrick pulled through the gates at Daytona International Speedway for her first stop on the “Danica Double.”
Patrick is retiring after she races in both NASCAR’s Feb. 18 season-opening Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in May. Her first practice for the Daytona 500 is Saturday.
Her farewell tour has been the headline of the offseason, as well as the end of her five-year relationship with fellow NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the announcement she’s now dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will be at the Daytona 500.
“He’s going to be here to support me and he’s excited,” Patrick told The Associated Press. “I’m excited to show him what I do.”
Patrick will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports in the Daytona 500 with Tony Eury Jr. as her crew chief. Eury was atop Patrick’s pit box for her initial entry into NASCAR when she began to dabble in stock cars in 2010.
Eury was crew chief for 51 races over three Xfinity Series seasons with Patrick. When rides for the “Daytona Double” did not materialize as predicted, Patrick worked behind the scenes to move the process along.
She asked GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons if he had interest in sponsoring her again. GoDaddy decided to rejoin Patrick for her final two races, and she reached out to Eury to set up her Daytona ride. It will help bring her NASCAR career full circle before she walks away from driving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Patrick met with Eury last month in Charlotte, North Carolina, and again when she arrived at Daytona on Friday. She said she had stayed in touch with Eury over the years, and the familiarity will help her get ready for her NASCAR finale.
“That part of it really is what makes me feel comfortable. From a performance standpoint, he’s someone who can look after me, but also from a comfort standpoint – I don’t have to try to win the Daytona 500 with somebody I never met before,” she said.
She found the same comfort in getting back to her motorhome, where she will be joined this weekend by her sister, two nieces and the two dogs she shared with Stenhouse. Patrick noted her bus is parked in a different location – she and Stenhouse were always side-by-side in the motorhome lot – but that’s the only difference.
“It always feels good to get back to the bus for the first time. It always has,” Patrick said. “I love coming in the bus because it feels so familiar. I am so quick in the kitchen. I know where everything is, it’s very easy.”
And the atmosphere in the motorhome lot? She’s now parked next to Eury and has more than a week to see how she’s received in the Cup community. Few colleagues have seen her since the November season finale weekend, when she announced her retirement plans . She and Stenhouse split shortly after she released a book , began dating Rodgers and is now in Daytona for her NASCAR finale.
“It’s only the normal amount of weird that one can imagine in this situation,” she said.
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