Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 26th in the Irwin Tools Night Race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
With the caution out, Patrick brought the GoDaddy Chevy to the attention of her pit crew. They changed four tires, made a track bar adjustment and pulled out the fenders in an effort to fix the damage.
Crew chief Tony Gibson elected to bring Patrick back down pit road a second time as a precautionary measure. The crew did more work to the right side of the car to ensure the damaged sheet metal did not cause a flat tire once the race returned to green. But the field took the green flag at lap 112 right as Patrick was coming off pit road, which meant she was quickly overtaken by the leaders and went a lap down.
Despite issues with handling and the splitter, Patrick continued to fight through the 500-lap race and finished in 26th.
“Overall, I would honestly say we are still on a good streak of running strong,” said Patrick, who made her 34th Sprint Cup start and her third at Bristol. “There is nothing you can do about getting into the wall and having damage. We came back as best as we could and made the car as good as it was at the end. That is a positive. My goal, honestly, in my mind is like, ‘Man, if we can come away with a top-30 with having these problems, then that is all right,’ and we finished 26th through attrition and staying out of trouble. We will take it and move on.”
Gibson also took positives away from the night.
“I think we were a solid top-20 car before the accident happened,” Gibson said. “Danica was doing the right thing on the track, and as far as I’m concerned, we had a good weekend here. We have to focus on the positives on a night like this. I appreciate her and the team not giving up and hanging in there together tonight.”
Patrick’s teammate Mark Martin, interim driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 20th.
The third member of SHR, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, finished 21st.
Matt Kenseth won the Irwin Tools Night Race, scoring his 29th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his third at Bristol.
Kasey Kahne finished .188 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Juan Montoya, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five. Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 74 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
With round 24 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He maintained his 15th-place standing and has 659 points, 162 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 26 behind 10th-place Logano. Patrick maintained her 27th-place standing and has 436 points, 385 behind Johnson and 249 away from Logano.
The No. 14 car is 13th with 677 points, 144 behind the series-leading No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports but only eight points behind the 10th-place No. 22 team of Penske Racing. Stewart, out of the car indefinitely, dropped to 19th in points. He has 594 points, 227 out of first and 91 behind 10th-place Logano.
Just two 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. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Martin Truex Jr., who is 14th in points, has the first wild card via his win earlier in the season at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Newman holds the second wild card as he is 15th in points with one victory. Stewart is next in line for the wild card by virtue of his one victory and 19th-place standing in points.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished eight spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 18th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the AdvoCare 500 on Sunday, Sept. 1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.