It had been a rough start to the season for Danica Patrick after she left Phoenix with another wrecked racecar.
After a less than stellar Daytona 500 appearance thanks to a blown engine and a hard wreck into a concrete wall, Patrick and the No.10 GoDaddy team were looking for a promising result at Phoenix.
Qualifying 33rd under NASCAR’s group qualifying format, Patrick was starting near the rear with a fast car underneath her. Running top-15 speeds at the start of the race, she and the team started passing cars as soon as the green flag waved on Sunday.
Stagnant around 24th position and trapped one lap down, rookie Justin Allgaier started a wreck that collected her and Travis Kvapil. Patrick, understandably, was upset.
“The damn 51 (Allgaier) was driving like a complete jackass,” she radioed in after the contact. “I’m not at all surprised we wrecked.”
Sounding defeated on the radio, Crew Chief Tony Gibson and spotter Brandon Benesch tried to cheer their driver up. Unfortunately, a string of bad luck to start the season had Patrick’s spirit down.
“For the 2nd-straight race we can’t show type of car we had or kind of day we were having…Do you think we are saving up our luck for like a win or something? Seems like that with all the bad luck we get,” she said on the radio towards the end of the race. Gibson reassured her that their day would come.
With her run of bad luck to start off the season, some doubt her improvement but just two races into the year, it’s too soon to tell.
This weekend, Patrick headed to Las Vegas where she finished forth in the Nationwide Series in 2011, her highest finish in a stock car. Taking to the track on Thursday for an extra day of testing in the No.10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet, it was clear to see she had one of the fastest cars on the track. Running in the top-5 at the end of the first test session, it was looking to be a good weekend in the desert.
Starting 22nd, with teammates Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch behind her, the green flag waved on Sunday and it started going downhill, fast.
All three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates were battling extremely loose racecars and Patrick and Stewart faded into the 30’s with long green-flag runs looming. With a caution finally did appear, Gibson threw some major chagnes at the car and it started to come back to life. Midway through the race, she was running some of the fastest speeds on the track but for Patrick, it was too late.
Trapped one lap down, Patrick just missed out on a top-20 finish and ended the day P21, a much better improvement from weeks past.
“For us on the 10 car, we were really good all weekend,” Patrick said in a press release following the race. “The guys on the Aspen Dental Chevy gave me a great car. The weakest session we had all weekend was the last practice. I’m really happy with the cars this year. I was running with the leaders the last half of the race, but I was a lap down. Unfortunately, one car always stayed out (rather than pitting), so we couldn’t get our lap back (via the wave around). And we just missed the lucky dog spot.”
With her 21st place finish, Patrick was the highest finishing Stewart-Haas Racing car in the field and can head to Bristol happy with her results. Las Vegas treated Patrick very well and helped get this No.10 team the finish they wholeheartedly deserved.