Danica Patrick and the No. 10 TaxAct Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) scored a 24th-place finish in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Mother Nature played havoc with the race, as rain delayed the start by almost six hours and then returned just after 10 p.m. local time to force the race to be called with 293 of the 334 scheduled laps compete.
For Patrick and the SHR No. 10 team led by crew chief Billy Scott, the day was another learning experience. After scoring her second-best result of 2016 of 11th at Charlotte Motor Speedway last month, Patrick, Scott and the TaxAct team were looking to continue their success on 1.5-mile ovals Sunday. Despite bouncing between 21st and 30th throughout the race, Patrick felt like they made several gains and utilizing a pit sequencing strategy was worth the risk.
“It was another really good effort by Billy and the TaxAct guys today,” Patrick said. “It was consistent all day that we were good for a handful of laps after putting on new tires. From there it was about making good corners, which would lead to good lap. Billy made a call just about halfway through for us to stay out a little longer than everyone else trying to see if we could catch a break. That never happened, but it was worth a shot. We had a car that was tight early and then got loose the longer we went. I don’t think we were the only one with that problem. Hats off to my guys for working hard to give me a better car and having good pit stops all night.”
Patrick was making her eighth start in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition at the track Sunday and started from the outside of the 11th row. Throughout the first run, the No. 10 TaxAct Chevrolet was loose both getting in and out of the corners. Scott called for an air pressure adjustment in the left-side tires during the first stop hoping to tighten the car and improve handling. Patrick reported early in the run the car was better, but she still had trouble getting right-rear bite while running between 24th and 26th.
Another round of pit stops followed, and Scott called for a left-rear wedge adjustment. The changes were successful, as Patrick was able make faster laps on the bottom than she previously had been able to turn. Patrick requested changes on the ensuing stop to allow her to be even more aggressive on the bottom. Scott obliged by taking wedge out of the right rear, adding wedge in the left rear and changing the left-front packer.
A caution on lap 143 brought Patrick down pit road again, and Scott continued to work on the car’s handling, this time trying to raise the right side of the car for Patrick. After running 30 laps, it was nearing another pit sequence, but Scott kept Patrick on the track for an additional 20 laps. She climbed from 29th to 21st and was hoping another caution would come out and allow her to gain back one of the laps she lost to the leaders earlier in the race.
This strategy played out for the next 100 laps, and when a caution did finally slow the race again on lap 256, Patrick took the wave-around flag and was two laps down to the leader on the ensuing restart. Patrick pitted for what would be the final time on lap 266 and was working her way back from 31st to 24th when a rain shower forced NASCAR officials to send all cars to pit road. The race was called shortly after, and Patrick was credited with her 29th top-25 finish of the season.