Danica Patrick delivered a solid performance in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, patiently marching her way from a 41st starting position to a 17th-place finish.
“I’m really proud of what our GoDaddy team accomplished today,” said Patrick, who finished 12th in the spring at Martinsville, her only other start at the .526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval. “For pulling out the backup car on Friday and having to start so far back in the field, it was a really good run. We started in the back and made our way through, and we didn’t have quite the car that we had here in the spring, but we got a similar result and that’s something I’m proud of.
“The guys did a great job in the pits. They were on their game each stop. Our adjustments were good all day. It was just a really solid day for our team, and that’s what we want to do these next few races and end our season on a strong note. Today was the last race for our pink car. I’m really proud that we were able to give GoDaddy and .ORG a good run because I’m very proud of what they do to help promote breast cancer awareness, and I’ve been honored to help them with that through the month of October.”
Patrick’s weekend at the Virginia short track didn’t get off to a good start. Just minutes into opening practice Friday, Patrick wheel-hopped her pink No. 10 Chevy, causing it to spin, hit the wall and heavily damage the rear of the car. The team was forced to pull out the backup car – a machine that had last been used June 14, 2011 when Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton drove it at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International as part of Mobil 1’s “Seat Swap” where Hamilton drove Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet for four laps and Stewart drove the McLaren MP4-23 Hamilton used to win the 2008 Formula One title.
With just a handful of laps in Friday’s practice on her backup car, Patrick qualified 41st. Despite starting in the back of the field at a track where it is difficult to pass, Patrick and her GoDaddy team were confident they could produce a similar outcome as they did in the spring when Patrick drove from 43rd to 12th place.
Patrick fell one lap down to the leaders by lap 50, but thanks to her team’s efforts in the pits and her work on the track, she put herself in position to earn the Lucky Dog free pass and get her lap back when the caution flag waved at lap 217.
From there, Patrick drove an impressive race, moving as high as 10th at one point in the 500-lap event. She finished 17th, her eighth top-20 result of the season.
“I’m really proud of all the hard work from everyone on the GoDaddy team all weekend,” crew chief Tony Gibson said. “We got behind the 8-ball from Friday, but nobody gave up. I have to thank the road crew and everyone at Stewart-Haas because after the wreck on Friday, they all went to work. The guys at the shop put together a third car for us just in case, and I really appreciate their dedication. It was just a real team effort. I’m proud of what Danica did on the track today. She drove a smart race. And I’m proud of what our pit crew did in the pits.”
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 14 spots ahead of Stenhouse, who placed 31st. Patrick remains 28th in the point standings and has 592 points.
Mark Martin, interim driver of SHR’s No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Stewart, finished 36th. Martin was running 14th when he was collected by a spinning Kurt Busch on lap 204 that inflicted heavy damage to the right-front corner of Martin’s Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy. The crew made repairs and sent Martin back onto the racetrack, albeit 45 laps down.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 State Water Heaters Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 38th. Newman ran as high as third before being tagged by Kevin Harvick on lap 319. The contact sent Newman backward into the turn one wall, causing extensive damage that sent Newman to the garage for lengthy repairs. He eventually returned to the track, 68 laps down.
Jeff Gordon won the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 to score his 88th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his eighth at Martinsville. His victory clinched the 2013 manufacturer’s title for Chevrolet, the brand’s 37th in the Sprint Cup Series and 11th in a row.
Matt Kenseth finished .605 of a second behind Gordon in the runner-up spot, while Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 17 caution periods for 111 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the eighth race of the 10-race Chase – is the AAA 500 Nov. 3 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The race begins at 3 p.m. EST, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 2 p.m.