KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – “Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug. Today, we were the bug.” – Tweet from @TonyOldman10 Sunday evening, March 3.
Tony Gibson, crew chief of Danica Patrick’s No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), hit send on that bit of wisdom just hours after he and Patrick looked over a destroyed race car in the garage area during the Subway Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday, March 3 at Phoenix International Raceway.
One week after starting on the pole and leading five laps en route to a record-setting eighth-place finish in the 55th Daytona 500, Patrick and Gibson became “the bug” after a massive accident at Phoenix sent them to a disappointing 39th-place finish.
Patrick was in the top-25 on lap 184 at Phoenix when she exited turn four of the mile oval and the right-front tire of her car suddenly lost all air pressure. Her machine headed straight for the SAFER Barrier on the outside of turn four, and the right front of her GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS took the brunt of the impact. The car then bounced off the wall and was hit in the driver’s side by the oncoming car of David Ragan, who had nowhere to go.
The two collisions destroyed Patrick’s car, but the driver was checked and released without injury from the infield care center. The accident caused Patrick to fall from seventh to 22nd in the point standings.
Patrick will look to change her luck in this week’s Kobalt Tools 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and everyone knows luck is an important part of any trip to Vegas. So, perhaps it’s ironic that Patrick will make her 13th career Sprint Cup Series start this weekend.
If the number isn’t traditionally lucky, at least Patrick’s stock car luck at the 1.5-mile oval traditionally has been good. In three NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Las Vegas, Patrick has two top-12 finishes, including a record-setting fourth-place result in 2011.
That marked the best finish by a woman in a NASCAR national stock-car series, topping a fifth-place run by Sarah Christian in a Sprint Cup race in 1949 at Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts coming out of Phoenix and looking toward Las Vegas? “Obviously, Phoenix was tough all around. It was a bad finish, we took a hit in the points, and our car was destroyed. You always hate to destroy a car, but especially with the new ones, it really hurts the team because everyone is trying to build new cars as quickly as possible. So I really feel bad for all the guys because it’s just more work for them. So, hopefully we’ll have a better outing at Las Vegas with the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS. We’ve had good results in the Nationwide Series, and I think the test day on Thursday will be beneficial. Any track time at a place we race is helpful for me as the learning process continues. It gives us a chance to learn more about the car and helps Tony Gibson and I build a notebook. The more track time, the better.”
Is it more important to have a good finish on Sunday, or learn as much as you can on Friday, Saturday and Sunday? “I feel like they both lead to good things. If you learn and grow, you are going to finish better. That learning curve is different for everyone, which is why it is difficult to say where I should be at a certain point in time because you just don’t know at what point in time for an athlete or driver something is going to click and make sense, and you figure something out, and get more comfortable. I guess I would say the most important thing overall, if you look at the big picture, is to learn and grow. Good races and good finishes can just happen, and sometimes you don’t know why. Sometimes it’s because of other people’s misfortunes, your luck – which is a big part of the sport. But learning is something that is going to pay off over time far more than being lucky one weekend.”
TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into Las Vegas? “She likes Vegas, and I like Vegas. We’ve run well there in the past with (Ryan) Newman. Our company has been real strong there the past two or three years. We have a test on Thursday, and we’re going to focus a lot on qualifying trim on Thursday and even on Friday just to make sure we qualify better. That’s what we think is our weak point. With these cars being aero-sensitive like they are, you have to focus on qualifying. I talked to Danica about it, and we’re going to spend the second half of Thursday strictly on qualifying runs and then all of Friday on qualifying runs. We’re going to try that approach and see if that benefits us. I think the more runs she makes, we can get the balance closer for her. That’s our plan.”
Have you had a chance to talk with Goodyear officials about the accident Sunday at Phoenix? “We talked, and they took the tire back to Akron (Ohio). It didn’t look like a heat failure because the rest of the tire looked normal. There was no stress in the sidewall, no heat – nothing that would show signs of a heat failure. So, we’re looking at a puncture. They have to take the tire and see how it shredded and how it opened up. I haven’t heard back from them, but that takes time and it will take a couple of weeks to get that back. It’s hard to tell on those deals, though, because when you blow a tire and hit the fence, it tears the tire up so bad it’s hard to tell. The whole weekend, we didn’t show any signs of heat or wear or anything. Our whole company raced a lot less camber than we ran there the last time, so we were real comfortable about our settings. And we ran longer than that previously in the race, and everything went fine. I can’t really explain it, but I’m leaning toward she ran over something and cut it because it was too early in the run to say anything else. They’ll let us know.”