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February 23, 2013

Daytona 500: Local woman part of Danica Patrick’s team

NEW CASTLE — NASCAR driver Danica Patrick made history this week, becoming the first woman to claim pole position for the Daytona 500.

But the driver who logged the fastest time at Sunday’s qualifying round — 196.434 mph — isn’t the only competitive young female on the team.

Wilmington High graduate Martha McGrath, now in her fourth year with NASCAR, also will be in the pits, in the stands or wherever she needs to be this weekend, catering to the needs of Patrick’s sponsors as the Sprint Cup season opens Sunday at the Daytona International Speedway.

Since December, McGrath, 30, has been employed as marketing manager by Stewart-Haas Racing, the NASCAR Sprint Cup racing team owned by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.

She has been in Florida since Wednesday, busying herself with Daytona Speedweek activities, leading up to the 55th annual “Great American Race.” Duties include strategically placing logos so sponsors “get the most mileage” from the car and uniforms.

“There’s a lot to be done and we’ve been very busy,” she said.

This weekend, McGrath said, she will be seeing to the needs of sponsors, specifically Barb Rechteman, chief marketing officer of Patrick’s primary sponsor,

“My priority is to see that she enjoys herself.”

McGrath is familiar with the NASCAR community, having started in 2008 with JR Motorsports, the NASCAR Nationwide Series team owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., then Turner Scott Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing before joining Stewart-Haas.

Martha’s parents, Linda and District Judge Scott McGrath, are more than proud of their daughter’s accomplishments.

“This is a big step up for Martha,” Scott McGrath said. “This is the big leagues as far as NASCAR is concerned.”

In the past, he said, his daughter has been more “hands-on” with racing personnel than she is this year.

“Over the years, she’s been responsible for drivers including Brad Keselowski and Justin Allgaier, seeing that they got to where they were supposed to be,” he said.

“Danica is such a celebrity she has her own people, so there is less contact with her.”

However, he said, Martha is responsible for the No. 10 Danica Patrick car — and loving every minute.

McGrath said his daughter has met the young woman who is part of the team that includes Stewart and Ryan Newman, who will start tomorrow’s race in the fifth and fourth slots, respectively.

“If any one of the three need anything, she would be someone they could turn to,” he said. “As a member of the team she could be called on to do anything for them.”

Both, he said, are competitive young women.

Until she took her job, McGrath said, he had not been aware that his daughter was a NASCAR fan. But he has become a bigger fan, watching televised races hoping to catching a glimpse of her. “But she’s more of a behind-the-scenes person.”

However, Scott and Linda took in three races in person last year.

“With her connections, she got us into the pit during the race,” her father said, adding, “If you want to watch the race, the stands are the best place, but it’s down in the pits where you get the real sense of what it is like. You get a real sense of NASCAR community, you see the energy and the heart of the community and it really is a community.”


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