Danica Patrick overcame a rain delay, an accident not of her making and transmission problems to finish a respectable 18th in Sunday’s Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), scored her best finish of the year while driving a backup car after she crashed her primary car for the weekend during Friday’s first practice session.
The backup car proved tough as Patrick survived an eventful night, starting with a more than three hour rain delay that began after completion of lap 125. Once the race resumed, things got interesting for Patrick. Running 23rd on lap 157, she was on the outside of Cole Whitt exiting turn four, and the right side of Whitt’s car slammed into the left side of Patrick’s machine, forcing her into the outside retaining wall.
Crew chief Tony Gibson and the GoDaddy/Get Found crew were able to make quick repairs without losing too much time or track position, and Patrick returned to the action, but more obstacles were to come.
Just past halfway, transmission issues caused Patrick to lose first, second and third gear, leaving her only with fourth gear working. This created problems exiting her pit box, and on her last stop of the day, she made contact with Clint Bowyer’s car pitted a few stalls ahead. Despite all these obstacles, Patrick was still able to bring the car home and score a solid result.
“The GoDaddy/Get Found guys worked hard all weekend,” Patrick said. “We had to go to a backup car just four laps into practice, so I appreciate the effort of Tony Gibson and the guys. It was a tough weekend, so to come out of here with 18th, I’ll take it. It was an eventful night. The 26 (Cole Whitt) wasn’t clear and got into us and so we had some damage. Then I lost first and second gear and then finally third gear, so the last 100 or 200 laps I only had fourth gear. That’s why I hit Clint (Bowyer) in the pits. It wouldn’t go so I dipped the clutch and got sideways, and when it was about to spin around, I lifted, it caught and then it went straight and it wouldn’t stop. So I hit him. I apologized to his crew after the race. And then it was like yellow after yellow, and if there was any day I didn’t want yellows, it’s today because I didn’t have any gears. We survived and got a decent finish out of it. Gibson made good calls all night, and hopefully we can build on this going to Fontana.”
Gibson was pleased with the effort of his crew through a challenging weekend.
“It was a lot to overcome,” Gibson said. “No one quit or gave up. It shows that if you stay strong and keep your head up, you can turn it around, and that’s what we did today. We had a fast race car, we just didn’t have track position all day. To be only one lap down and finish 18th, I’ll take that. From where we started, wrecking a car, to qualifying in the back, to having damage early, to losing a transmission, we just had so many things to overcome. It seems like every time the yellow would come out we’d have to overcome something. I’m just proud of everybody. I’m proud of her, I’m proud of the guys. It was a good effort.”
Perhaps most challenging of all was overcoming the transmission issues late.
“It was hung in fourth (gear),” Gibson said. “All we had was fourth gear. So when she left the pits (the last time), she gassed on it, and when she did the car just kind of slid sideways, and then when she got to the next pit stall the rear tires grabbed, and when it did, it pulled the car around and she ended up hitting the 15 (Bowyer). It can happen, you see it happen – not quite like that, but you see guys run into each other on pit road. I don’t think there was anything she could have done any different. If she would have had regular first gear, that wouldn’t happen.”