Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader Danica Patrick rolls into Texas coming off a 12th-place finish in her first start at the daunting Martinsville Speedway, a place where debuts go to be forgotten. Since 1972, only 29 drivers have had a better Martinsville debut than Patrick. Some of the marquee names she bettered:Rusty Wallace (15th), Tony Stewart (20th), Kasey Kahne (21st), Matt Kenseth (21st), Kurt Busch (37th) and Jimmie Johnson (35th).
A successful follow-up act at Texas might prove even more surprising. Saturday night will mark Patrick’s eighth race at a 1.5-mile venue. Her average finish in the first seven is just 28.8. She has only one other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Texas, a 24th-place finish last November.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 25th at Martinsville on Sunday, and now looks to uphold a long-established pedigree of Roush Fenway Racing excellence at Texas. RFR counts nine wins at Texas, five of which have come at the hands of teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. Stenhouse’s best career finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came at a 1.5-mile track – Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he finished 11th in the 2011 Coca-Cola 600. Outside that event, Stenhouse’s intermediate-track experience is few. In all, he has four starts at 1.5-mile tracks, with an average finish of 25.8 and a Driver Rating of 66.2.