'I think we kind of salvaged something there'
Danica Patrick started 11th, fell to 30th one lap down and then recovered for a solid 18th in Sunday’s Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), started 11th but began falling early on in the race as her tires began to give away grip.
Crew chief Tony Gibson made a few adjustments, but Patrick radioed some bad news: “I don’t think we have a good long-distance car. It drives well for a couple laps, but it just doesn’t hold well.”
In addition, the fenders on her GoDaddy Chevy were damaged from the regular road racing contact, making it difficult for her crew to change tires quickly.
The issues with the car dropped her to as low as 30th-place, one lap down in the last half of the race.
But on lap 75, when the caution came out due to Matt Kenseth’s accident, she was the first car one lap down, making her the recipient of the “Lucky Dog” to get her back on the lead lap.
From there, she pitted twice for new tires and managed to pass enough cars for a respectable 18th-place finish.
“I think we kind of salvaged something there,” Patrick said. “It would be good for a couple laps and then would just go away. We got lucky getting the Lucky Dog and then just pitted a couple of times for fresh tires and fuel and wound up 18th. It’s not the best day, but I think we keep improving.”
It was her best road course finish in the Sprint Cup as she bettered a 29th-place finish last year at Sonoma and a 20th-place result at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led SHR by finishing 12th.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 19th.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Folds of Honor/Outback Steakhouse/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, led twice for 23 laps before being caught up in an on-track incident at lap 83, which relegated him to a 20th place finish.
Carl Edwards won the Save Mart 350k to score his 23rd career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first at Sonoma.
Jeff Gordon finished .591 of a second behind Edwards in the runner-up spot, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five. Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 19 laps, with three drivers failing to finish the 110-lap race.
With round 16 of 36 complete, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is ninth with 472 points, 108 behind series leader Gordon. Stewart is 17th with 427 points, 153 out of first. Busch is 26th with 347 points, 233 out of first. Patrick is 28th with 299 points, 281 out of first.