Danica Patrick cut a tire on lap 184, resulting a hard crash in turn four that caused her to finish a disappointing 39th in the Subway Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was in the top-25 when she exited turn four of the 1-mile oval and the right front tire of her car suddenly lost all air pressure. Her machine headed straight for the SAFER Barrier on the outside of turn four. The right front of her machine took the brunt of the impact, and then her car bounced off the wall and was hit in the driver’s side by the oncoming car of David Ragan, who had nowhere to go.
The two collisions destroyed Patrick’s GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS, but the driver was checked and released without injury from the infield care center.
“There was no real warning,” Patrick said. “I wasn’t that tight, either; I was sliding a little bit. I felt like most of the day I was chasing the rear. It was a little unexpected. I took a hard hit to the right and then on the left. I’m fine. The cars and the tracks are so safe. As a driver that’s a nice feeling. It doesn’t change the fact that we aren’t going to get any points, really, coming out of today, and it would have been nice. These points in the beginning of the year are so important. We were making progress, but unfortunately our day ended early. I feel bad for Go Daddy – this is their home race. Obviously, I wish would we could have had a better run.”
Crew chief Tony Gibson was left to try and figure out what caused the tire problem.
“The bead (of the tire) looks OK,” Gibson said. “We ran longer than that today earlier with no issue. We didn’t see any temperatures all day long; our tires we pulled off were fine. It’s a mystery to me; I don’t know. Even in practice as hot as it was yesterday, no issues with temps. We got less camber than we ran last year with the old car. It’s a good question, not really sure why. We’ll take the tire back and see if they can dissect it. The bead doesn’t look melted out of it. I don’t know if she ran over something, or what. Tough deal.”
After the accident, Patrick stuck around and surveyed the damage with Gibson and the crew for nearly 45 minutes.
“She’s in it to win it,” Gibson said. “Got all the desire and the ‘want to,’ to do it, and she’s got the heart. A lot of people don’t understand that about her. That just shows what she does. She wanted to know what she could do different, was it something she did, how do we fix it for the next time. She’s into it, asks a lot of questions and wants to make things better. That’s all you can ask.”
Patrick’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, finished eighth to score his 12th top-10 in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1-mile oval.
The third member of SHR, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet for SHR, finished 40th. Newman had two separate right-front tire issues, which both resulted in contact with the outside wall. The damage from the second incident was too much for Newman to return to the racetrack.
Carl Edwards won the Subway Fresh Fit 500k to break a 70-race winless streak. His last victory came March 6, 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Today’s win marked the 20th Sprint Cup victory of his career and his second at Phoenix.
Five-time Sprint Cup champion and reigning Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson finished 1.024 seconds behind Edwards in the runner-up spot, while Denny Hamlin, reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 43 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 316-lap race, which was extended four laps by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round two of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 20th, 46 points behind series leader Johnson. Patrick stands 22nd, 48 points out of first. Stewart is 23rd, 51 points behind Johnson.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 23 spots behind Stenhouse (16th).