Danica Patrick missed a big accident early and outlasted a three-hour rain delay but couldn’t avoid a late-race multi-car crash, finishing a disappointing 33rd in the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was in the middle of the pack of drafting cars on the backstretch on lap 182 when several cars began crashing in front of her. Despite her best efforts, she was caught up in the accident, and her GoDaddy.com Chevrolet suffered too much damage to continue.
“I’m probably sure the most common answer is, ‘I have no idea,’” Patrick said. “It happens out here; it is frustrating. Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) was trying to make it four-wide, and the No. 36 (JJ Yeley) came up to block him, and it turned him. Then the No. 78 (Kurt Busch) was spinning; I went high, and somebody came up and clipped me and put me in the wall. I’m not sure which car it was. The No. 32 (Terry Labonte), it looked like. Honestly, it is just the way it goes. People forcing the issue. It is late in the race; I get it. But that’s what causes these accidents that makes speedway racing speedway racing. It’s just unfortunate for everyone on the Go Daddy team.”
On lap 44, Patrick did a spectacular job avoiding a multi-car accident that unfolded in front of her in turns one and two. She went low on the track and missed several cars crashing in front of her before coming to a complete stop as her path was blocked with wrecked race cars. She then drove around the roadblock and continued, much to the amazement of her crew chief, Tony Gibson.
“We were watching, and we were like, ‘Holy cow,’” Gibson said. “The next thing you know is she came on the radio, and she just aimed for the empty hole. I don’t know how she missed the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) there at the end. The No. 18 came back down across, and she said she got loose when she got on the first apron. Then when she got on the flat, she got real loose. How she survived, I have no idea. The GoDaddy.com Chevy did good, and our spotter (Brandon Benesch) did an awesome job. It’s unfortunate how it ended up with the late-race crash. But that’s part of restrictor-plate racing.”
Patrick’s teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished 32nd. Newman, who led once for two laps, had his day cut short after being involved the same accident as Patrick.
The third member of SHR, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS, finished 27th after being one of 16 drivers involved in the multi-car accident on lap 44 that Patrick avoided. He was able to return to the race but finished five laps down in 27th place.
David Ragan won the Aaron’s 499 to break a 64-race winless streak. The win is his second career Sprint Cup victory and his first at Talladega.
Ragan’s Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland finished .212 of a second behind Ragan in the runner-up spot while Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Regan Smith, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Scott Speed and Aric Almirola comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 31 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 192-lap race, which was extended four laps by a green-white-checkered finish. Heavy rains also delayed the race for three hours, 36 minutes after the red flag was unfurled on lap 124.
With round 10 of 36 complete, Newman continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He fell one spot to 17th and has 242 points, 141 back of series leader Johnson and 38 points behind 10th-place Greg Biffle. Stewart maintained his 22nd-place standing and has 224 points, 159 out of first and 56 behind Biffle. Patrick dropped one spot to 27th place in the standings and has 180 points, 203 behind Johnson and 100 away from Biffle.
Sixteen 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. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 20 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 13th.