Danica Patrick just wants a little luck to go her way for a change.
Despite qualifying 24th, Patrick, the driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was forced to start in the rear of the field for the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway due to an engine change the team made following first practice on Saturday. Patrick fought her way through the field despite being mired deep in traffic.
Thanks to a strong racecar, her efforts on the racetrack and a solid performance by her crew on pit road, Patrick appeared to be headed to a solid top-20 finish.
However, her efforts were foiled just past the three-quarter mark of the 400-lap race when she was caught up in a wreck at lap 319. Patrick was in the middle of a three-wide battle when she made contact with reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, who later took blame for the incident. Keselowski apparently came down on Patrick, which sent her nose first into the turn three outside retaining wall and led to extensive damage to her racecar.
Patrick’s GoDaddy Chevy sustained heavy right front and right fender damage, but she was able to drive her No. 10 Chevy to pit road for a series of lengthy repairs over the course of multiple pit stops. Patrick was able to continue but finished the race in a disappointing 29th-place, 15 laps down to the leaders.
“We obviously started from the back, and track position was really important here at Charlotte,” said Patrick, who made her 22nd career Sprint Cup start and her second at Charlotte. “We fought our way back to trying to be in a position to be on the lead lap. I felt like we were making real progress and starting to get the car to a place that was really good and had an accident, which is unfortunate because we were moving up. But there’s nothing we can do about it now. We just need some luck.”
Crew chief Tony Gibson was pleased with the GoDaddy team’s performance despite the wreck late in the race.
“We had a really good car,” Gibson said. “Our car was really strong all day – probably one of the best cars we had had since Kansas (Speedway in Kansas City). It’s tough. Keselowski said he didn’t know that they were three-wide. He came down and caught us, and we got tore up. At that point, our goal became to finish the race. Pit stops were good. Danica did an awesome job. All we could do was get the car fixed and try to finish the race and go on. That’s what we did. We will build on the high stuff from tonight. We had a good car. We’re showing some strength. We’re making our stuff better during the race, and that’s what we’ve got to do.
“I told Danica that one day we’ll be the windshield and not the bug. We’re making progress. We’re making gains. We just have to be ready for when it’s our turn, and we will be.
Patrick’s SHR teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, led a lap en route to scoring his sixth top-10 finish of the season and his ninth top-10 in 25 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for SHR, finished seventh after leading once for six laps. It was his 13th top-10 in 29 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval and his second top-10 this season.
Kevin Harvick won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Charlotte.
Kasey Kahne finished 1.49 seconds behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five. Newman, Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 61 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race. The race was delayed three times for separate incidents which forced NASCAR to display the red flag. The first two of the three red-flag periods were for a camera cable that fell on the track and caused damage to a handful of cars. The first red flag was displayed for 10 minutes and 40 seconds with the second following quickly after the first and lasting 16 minutes and 22 seconds. The third red flag was displayed for an accident on lap 327, delaying the racing action for nine minutes and 13 seconds.
With round 12 of 36 complete, Newman continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He rose one spot to 16th and has 315 points, 130 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 20 points behind 10th-place Brad Keselowski. Stewart also gained one spot to crack the top-20. He is 20th with 291 points, 154 out of first and 44 behind Keselowski. Patrick lost two positions and is now 30th with 211 points, 234 behind Johnson and 124 away from Keselowski.
Fourteen races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 15 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 14th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks on Sunday, June 2 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 12:30 p.m.