Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was relegated to a 24th-place finish after a late-race accident took her out of contention for a top-10 result in Sunday’s GEICO 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Patrick started the race from the 37th position, cracked the top-20 at lap 20 and moved into the top-10 for the first time at lap 29. Crew chief Billy Scott called her to pit road for a scheduled, green-flag pit stop at lap 39. Cars went three-wide in an effort to gain ground entering pit road, and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet sustained significant left-rear damage as the No. 27 made contact with Patrick and spun the car around in the team’s pit stall. Patrick was able to get the car pointed in the right direction, and the team completed the stop. After the lengthy stay on pit road, Patrick returned to the track in the 40th position. Without a drafting partner, Patrick went a lap down to the leader at lap 46.
The caution flag waved for the first time at lap 50 and Patrick narrowly avoided getting hit as the No. 88 car spun up the track. Scott called her to pit road on the following lap for repairs from the previous pit-road incident. The team pitted twice under the caution to repair the damage, and she restarted in the 37th position at lap 57. When the caution flag waved again two laps later, Patrick was in position to get the free pass and got back on the lead lap. She restarted 34th at lap 62 and worked her way into the top-20 at lap 73.
With rain in the area, many of the lead-lap cars pitted when the caution flag waved at lap 96. Patrick was scored in the 11th position, so Scott had her stay out, and she led several laps under caution. The rain dissipated, and the team elected to pit for tires and fuel one lap before the field went back to green. Patrick restarted in the 20th position and worked her way into the top-15 by lap 116.
At lap 160, Patrick spun through the grass after contact from the No. 11 car as a part of a 21-car incident in turn one. Scott called her to pit road on the following lap to get fresh tires and fuel and to make sure the car had not sustained any additional damage. Patrick returned to the track and restarted in the 10th position at lap 166.
As Patrick ran in the eighth spot with eight laps to go, contact on the backstretch from the No. 95 car sent her No. 10 Chevrolet down the track into the No. 20 car. From there, Patrick hit the inside wall. Per NASCAR policy, Patrick was taken to the infield care center, where she was evaluated and released.
"I'm okay,” said Patrick. “I’m not sure exactly what started (the wreck), but I know I got drilled from behind and the car spun toward the inside wall. It hit really hard. Everything – the steering wheel – is way out of place. I hit my foot, hit my arm. There was fire inside the car. It kind of knocked the breath out of me a little bit.
“We all kind of raced to halfway, then all raced to the rain that was coming and all raced to the end. The whole race we were racing like we were racing to the end. There were no moments to relax. I’m sure that expanded peoples’ comfort zone at the end of the race because we were used to running close. Then some people just took it to the edge.”
The No. 10 Chevrolet team was unable to continue, and Patrick was credited with a 24th-place finish.