Late Spin Ruins Patrick's Strong NNS California Effort
Race clean laps, finish races and learn the intricacies of NASCAR Nationwide Series racing.
Such were the goals set for IZOD IndyCar Series regular Danica Patrick when she agreed to take on a NASCAR crossover attempt by signing on with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s JR Motorsports (JRM) team and veteran Crew Chief Tony Eury, Jr., for 13 Nationwide Series races this season.
After averaging a 31st-place finish in seven NNS events that included a season-best 24th-place Chicagoland Speedway showing and with the 17-race IICS season behind her, a frustrated Patrick held high performance expectations going into her second NNS Auto Club Speedway appearance of the season on Oct. 9.
"I'm very frustrated with the way that it has gone in NASCAR and I'm harder on myself than anybody else could be, probably. There have been some good things, but it has been hard and really humbling. I thought it was going to be a little bit easier than this.
"I don't know what I need out of the car to be good in the race. I know what I want for one lap to feel good, but that doesn't mean it's going to be good for 70 or 80 laps.
"There are lessons learned and they're not fun lessons. Everybody's watching and it makes it even harder, but we'll get this car to the front by the end of the year and we'll figure it out," she said following her 35th-place finish at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 25.
The stock car pupil showed signs she is applying the knowledge learned from those hard lessons during her California Speedway run.
Patrick was racing 13th with nine laps remaining in the 150-lap tilt when James Buescher's No. 11 Braun Racing car made contact with rear end of Patrick's No. 7 in tight backstretch traffic and sent the JRM car spinning headlong into the wall.
"I was giving him room and from the replay it looks like it was avoidable," she said after emerging from a 360-degree spin uninjured.
She ended the race 30th, but optimistic about the progress she made during the 300-mile race.
"There were a lot of positives; coming back to a track a second time makes a difference.
"Tony Jr., did a good job setting up the car up right for the start. Earlier in the year we were too free to start the race, so we tightened it up on purpose so I could have confidence. We started with that then freed it up and freed it up. The adjustments made the car turn better.
"I felt we had a really good car on those last two restarts. We were pushing hard and using all the track. I was really happy the car was good on the long run. It was good in the beginning, settled in during the middle and came on at the end. The result wasn't very good, but we had a good race and we'll have a lot of confidence going into Charlotte," she said. Patrick will compete in the remaining five races of the season. The series visits Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 15. Coverage is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2, Performance Racing Network radio and Sirius XM 128.
Story by Mike Schmaltz