Friday, Oct 15
It is not everyday that a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver takes over a food truck. Yes, a food truck.

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick opted to do something rather different with her sponsor, Aspen Dental. In an attempt to raise awareness for consequences for those who do not take care of their teeth, Patrick took over a food truck, serving some rather unappetizing items. 

The campaign, called “A Taste of the Future," has the Cup Series driver serving extremely unhealthy food to customers, especially with a few mixtures in a blender. Showing the stunned reactions of people, the two-minute feature elaborates on why people need to keep a healthy diet.


“Delaying dental visits for years is similar to what happens when you don’t keep up maintenance on your car and then expect it to perform the way it should," said Patrick. "You end up having higher costs to repair damage that could have been prevented with proper, regular maintenance. I love the approach that Aspen Dental took with this video – it’s a fun and creative way to deliver what is actually a really serious health message about the importance of oral health to overall health, and I was proud to be a part of it.”

Aspen Dental has a multi-race deal as the primary sponsor of Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet. Through eight races, she has two top 10s, and sits 13th in points. Following the race at Bristol, Patrick set the record for most top-10 finishes by a female driver, with six in her 90 career starts in NASCAR's premier division.

“Nobody has your back like I do.” These were the first words to come out of Denny Hamlin’s mouth after Danica Patrick approached him on pit road following the second Budweiser Duel 150 race on Thursday evening.

Wednesday featured a practice accident between Patrick and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin. While racing on the backstretch, Hamlin got into her, which sent her to a backup car for the Duel.

But on Thursday night, with pressure to make the Daytona 500, Patrick let her emotions out. On Lap 56, Patrick was inside of the top 10 when she spun out in the center of Turn 3. Hamlin was trailing her at the time – just a few inches behind – and claims he did not touch her. However, she believes otherwise.

“Yesterday when he went to pull down low, it just pulled my bumper around, but it tracked around, I was loose,” Patrick explained in a post-race press conference. “Then it spun and wrecked, we go on to the next car. Something similar happens tonight where I look in my rearview mirror and he's tight up behind me. I can see he's staggered to my left rear, the car gets really light and spins around.”

During the altercation on pit road, Patrick raised her voice and grabbed Hamlin by the collar. Attempting to explain himself, he put his hands on her shoulders in an attempt to calm her down. She told Hamlin that the incident “happened twice, the same person and the same way.”

"No one else is getting close to you,” Hamlin responded. “But, we have to get close to you to get you going forward. To get you going forward, I have to get close to you. I know it got you loose, but I didn't hit you."

The two are neighbors in the motor coach lot, and Patrick said she’s one of his best friends. However, entering a contract year with Stewart-Haas Racing and GoDaddy, missing the Daytona 500 would be considered the apocalypse of her NASCAR career. GoDaddy had to pull her Super Bowl commercial due to a controversy that was sparked from the 30-second marketing campaign, and she was defensive during the Media Tour when asked about her 28th-place finish in points last year.

Following the wreck, her car had minor damage, and she was able to continue for the green-white-checkered finish. Though she nearly lost the pack, teammate Kurt Busch gave her a push and propelled her to 10th place, which was six spots to the good of making it into the “Great American Race.”

“Holy crap, it felt dire,” she said. “This whole scenario is crazy that the series has put us in.  Actually I said yesterday, it's horrible that it's left up to other people and what they can do to you to whether or not you get in the race or not.

“At the end when they told me I need four spots or you need to pass these two cars or you're 18th right now, I was like, Okay, do I have to be desperate basically?  Do I have to pass these cars?  Nobody answered me.  I just said, Screw it, I'm going to be desperate. . . . Luckily it shouldn't go unsaid, Kurt was there for me.  Without Kurt, I wouldn't have finished where I did.”

When everything settled down, Hamlin took his belief to Twitter and said: "On the streets of real life cops always give the ticket to the car behind in a accident. We will use that logic on this one.Folks I watched it back and was in the drivers seat so I know.. I did NOT hit her. BUT I was close, too close obviously."

“To be able to get out there and race and be out there with good cars - those Gibbs cars are awfully strong,” Johnson said following his victory. “So to size myself up against them and see what kind of runs they can create and try to put on me. At the start of the race, I was behind those two trying to figure out to get by them. All in all, it was a very productive night.”

Johnson led a race-high 31 laps as he blocked Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth for the final handful of laps. After expressing his No. 48 car’s strengths in the second half of the race, the six-time champion fought off the Toyota-powered cars to earn the victory.

Ryan Blaney finished inside of the top five in the Wood Brothers Ford. Blaney will race in his first Daytona 500 in what will be the beginning of an 18-race stint with the No. 21 team.

Danica Patrick, who was on the verge of missing the Daytona 500 after spinning on Lap 56, finished 10th to race her way in. Following the race, Patrick and Denny Hamlin exchanged words on pit road in a heated discussion. Patrick believed that Hamlin got into the rear end of her No. 10 car, but he continuously denied it.

Front Row Motorsports driver David Ragan entered the second Budweiser Duel 150 with no owner points and a qualifying time outside of the top 30. With the No. 34 car’s owner points going to new teammate Cole Whitt, Ragan had to race his way into the Daytona 500 by finishing inside of the top 16. On Lap 19, Ragan and Justin Allgaier got together on the frontstretch. Ragan’s car received rear end damage, and he fell one lap down following a lengthy pit stop under caution. However, after getting back on the lead lap, he was able to surge into the top 16 – finishing 14th.

Reed Sorenson, who nearly didn’t have the opportunity to race on Thursday evening due to not having a backup car at the track, executed his way into the top 10 late in the race, along with Mike Wallace as the two made it into the Daytona 500.

Brian Scott missed the Daytona 500 in the No. 62 Chevrolet. Bobby Labonte finished 20th, but was able to use the champion’s provisional to make his way into Sunday’s event. Jeb Burton and Alex Bowman didn’t qualify for the race after being involved in a wreck on Lap 36 with Sam Hornish, Jr. and Austin Dillon. Hornish made the race based on owner points, and Dillon was able to continue and finished 15th. Josh Wise wasn’t able to get going from the start of the race in his Phil Parsons Racing No. 98 Ford. He was able to make it back on track for a handful of laps, but finished 24th.

 

Starting lineup via NASCAR.com.

 

RowInsideOutsideExplained
1 Jeff Gordon Jimmie Johnson Top two qualifiers (Final round of Coors Light Pole Qualifying)
2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kyle Busch Top 15 from Duel races (Inside: First race; Outside: Second race)
3 Joey Logano Carl Edwards Top 15 from Duel races
4 Tony Stewart Greg Biffle Top 15 from Duel races
5 Clint Bowyer Martin Truex Jr. Top 15 from Duel races
6 Kevin Harvick Ryan Blaney Top 15 from Duel races
7 Kasey Kahne Reed Sorenson Top 15 from Duel races
8 Jamie McMurray Mike Wallace Top 15 from Duel races
9 Landon Cassill Justin Allgaier Top 15 from Duel races
10 Cole Whitt Danica Patrick Top 15 from Duel races
11 Paul Menard Ryan Newman Top 15 from Duel races
12 Michael McDowell Kurt Busch Top 15 from Duel races
13 JJ Yeley David Gilliland Top 15 from Duel races
14 Michael Annett David Ragan Top 15 from Duel races
15 Kyle Larson Austin Dillon Top 15 from Duel races
16 Ty Dillon Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Top 15 from Duel races
17 Aric Almirola Michael Waltrip Four fastest qualifiers from any round
18 Matt Kenseth Johnny Sauter Four fastest qualifiers from any round
19 Denny Hamlin Brad Keselowski 2014 owner points
20 Trevor Bayne AJ Allmendinger 2014 owner points
21 Sam Hornish Jr. Casey Mears 2014 owner points
22 Bobby Labonte xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Past champion

 

He is the champion. After 13 years of coming close to winning it all, Kevin Harvick captured the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fashion by making good use of his nickname: The Closer.

However, for Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Danica Patrick, 2014 was a step in the right direction. One of the most popular drivers in the sport, she was expected to steadily improve this year, but didn’t make the leap that was expected of her.

But for Harvick, 2014 was a dream come true for a Bakersfield, California kid that nearly became an architect.

After making the swap from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick had plenty of support from multiple sponsors, including Budweiser, Jimmy Johns and Outback Steakhouse. Moreover, the No. 4 team was starting from scratch. Led by crew chief Rodney Childers, the magic rapidly increased in the organization, and Harvick was on the fast road to success.

Right off of the bat, Harvick showed he was going to be the car to beat – posting top speeds consistently during the first test prior to the 2014 season at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Dominating at Phoenix, he scored SHR’s first of six victories on the year. Although he continued to be one of the quickest cars week-in and week-out, Harvick’s team struggled with luck.

Mechanical issues and faulty pit stops took away multiple wins for the No. 4 team. During the first 10 races of the 2014 season, he finished 36th or worse four times, and was barely sitting inside of the top-20 in points. However, Harvick persevered and won five races on the year. Having led an astonishing 2,137 laps, he led the Sprint Cup Series in that category by over 500 laps ahead of Brad Keselowski.

But with all of the laps led, Harvick’s success truly came late in events. Even when he might not have had the strongest car, he made bold moves that put him in position to not only finish inside of the top five, but to earn the win. And that’s just what he did.

With struggles occurring throughout SHR over the course of the season, Harvick became the team leader that they were looking for. He was a mentor to Patrick, and helped out Kurt Busch and team co-owner Tony Stewart when they were struggling on and off of the track.

As for Patrick, she finished 28th in points, which is one position down from her rookie season. She made steady gains throughout the year, but unfortunately for the No. 10 team, so did the rest of the middle part of the field.

Earning a top-10 finish at Kansas in May, Patrick began to raise eyebrows. After running inside of the top five for a substantial portion of the race, it looked like she would continue that pace for the rest of the year. But things at SHR started to shake up, and as she was gaining momentum with crew chief Tony Gibson, he was assigned to work with Kurt Busch. She was paired with first-year crew chief Daniel Knost, who notably struggled with Busch for the majority of the year.

Patrick ended the year with three top-10s, which isn’t too good compared to her teammates. But she has a sponsor that is backing her with plenty of funding to continue at SHR in 2015.

2015 Preview:

Harvick is expected to pick up from where he left off. The reigning champion usually does extremely well or  . . .  not so much. Childers and he have a rare chemistry that is seldom seen in NASCAR.

But now that the team likely won’t be dealing with mechanical issues, Childers should lead Harvick to even more success in 2015. With eight poles in 2014, Harvick became a great qualifier. Although that might not remain next year, he will certainly be a consistent factor during race day.

If there is any room for improvement in this team, it will have to be the pit crew. Late in the year, SHR swapped the No. 14 and No. 4 pit crews in order to give Harvick as much of an advantage as he can have. It paid off in the short-term, but he’s going to have his original crew back in 2015. Practice makes perfect, and if they can make fewer mistakes in 2015, expect Harvick to win at least three-five races before the Chase for the Sprint Cup cut-off.

2015 will be an important year for Patrick. She needs to finish inside of the top five at least once at a non-restrictor plate track in order to prove that she belongs in the Cup Series. She improved in each category in 2014, but that wasn’t enough to make up for some of her horrific races, such as Texas late in the year.

Patrick’s struggles are known throughout the sport due to being rushed up to the top-tier division following limited success in the Nationwide Series with JR Motorsports. However, she has potential to finish inside of the top-20 in points if she and Knost find chemistry right off of the bat. She will be strong at the plate tracks, but where she can truly excel is the intermediate tracks, which she showed strengths at. 

In a wild 500-mile event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne hoisted the trophy for the first time in over a year. Holding off Matt Kenseth during a green-white-checkered restart, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet took the victory as he sliced himself between the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of the No. 20 team and Denny Hamlin.

With the victory, Kahne has locked a spot inside of the Chase for the Sprint Cup after being on the verge of earning a position in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Now, all four Hendrick Motorsports car are locked inside of the Chase. The victory marks the 17th in his career, and his fifth triumph while racing for HMS.

“We were all over the place during the race but the guys stayed with me and worked hard,” Kahne said. “On those restarts - I didn’t know what would happen because I had great restarts all night and I struggle with restarts a lot.  That’s big, because that is one of the things you have to be good at and it worked really well tonight.”

 “Yeah, we are locked in and I hate it comes down to this Atlanta or Richmond just about every year for me.  Sometimes we are in, sometimes we are out.  But thankful that now at HMS I have been in all three years now.  We have the pressure all the way to Richmond, but we made it again, thankful for that.”

Kenseth clinched a spot in the Chase based on points with a runner-up finish. Clint Bowyer is now on the outside looking in after finishing Sunday evening’s race in the 38th position due to a broken shifter. Greg Biffle currently holds the final spot in the Chase, and it would take a victory by a win-less driver inside of the top 30 to take that away from the Roush Fenway Racing driver.

Kevin Harvick was forced into the wall in front of Joey Logano after Paul Menard spun his tires on the final restart. Menard evidently took the middle lane on the outside of Danica Patrick; shoving the No. 4 car into the wall to end his evening after leading a race-high 195 laps. Harvick was the fastest car throughout the evening as his No. 4 car pulled out in front during each restart.

After Kahne led 23 laps while holding off Harvick, the caution came out with just two laps to go. Everyone on the lead lap came onto pit road, with Kenseth and Menard taking two tires. Kahne slipped to the fifth position, but was able to work his way back up after Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch tangled with a pair of laps left in the race.

While leading early in the race, Harvick nearly hit a squirrel – as he was entering Turn 3. He radioed in on the radio to tell his crew what happened as he was in disbelief; thinking a cat ran from the fence down to the apron while Harvick’s car was approaching. Prior to the first caution, just 23 cars were on the lead lap as the No. 4 car was setting a blistering pace – over seven seconds ahead of Jeff Gordon, who was in second.

On Lap 78, while running in the runner-up position, Gordon blew a left-front tire while entering Turn 3. The No. 24 car pancaked the wall, but he was able to come back and finish 17th after being stuck two laps down and having untimely cautions – preventing him from taking the wave around until the two green-white-checkered runs.

Danica Patrick earned a career-best finish as she ended the evening in the sixth position. Patrick received two free passes on Sunday evening after getting lapped. However, she consistently worked on her No. 10 car and earned a spot inside of the top 10. Ty Dillon finished 25th at Atlanta in his Sprint Cup Series debut for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 33 Chevrolet. Although he finished three laps behind the leader, Dillon gained valuable experience and finished one position behind his brother, Austin Dillon.

In the midst of the final green-flag pit cycle, Keselowski was attempting to go around Hamlin, but he missed pit road after Cole Whitt blocked him; leading the No. 2 car to slam into the back of Josh Wise’s No. 98 car.

Tony Stewart received a warm welcome by race fans during driver introductions on Sunday evening. Stewart rapidly worked his way to the sixth position within two laps of the green flag waving after starting 12th. He ran inside of the top 10 for the majority of the race until Kyle Busch and he collided on a restart. Stewart later blew a tire – ending his night in the No. 14 car as he made a return to NASCAR competition due to missing the past three events after the tragedy that occurred on the weekend of the Watkins Glen race. After the incident, he was not available for comment, but his crew chief did.

“The car has had speed all weekend long and we qualified well,” Chad Johnston said. “I went into today with some pretty high hopes of finishing well and possibly coming out of here with a win but it just didn’t work out in our favor.  We got into a little trouble with the 18 and got into the outside wall, knocked the toe out of it, and a lot of heavy right side damage.  We were just trying to fix that and salvage what we could out of the day but then we blew a right front there right before that caution came out.”

 

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