Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished a disappointing 33rd in the Camping World RV Sales 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Talladega (Ala) Superspeedway.
Patrick was in the top-10 for much of the race, but a mistake on her final pit stop ended any chance of a good finish for the GoDaddy team.
Due to the nature of restrictor-plate racing at Talladega and its sister track, Daytona (Fla) International Speedway, green flag pit stops are challenging for drivers, crew chiefs and spotters. The majority of the 43-car field is in a tight pack, using the “draft” of other cars to maintain the maximum speed possible. If a car is removed from the draft, it quickly loses pace with the lead cars and cannot make up the difference alone.
Because of this, teams work with other teams to pit on the same lap so the cars always have drafting partners to work with once they resume racing. Often when the lead car in the draft heads to pit road, the cars behind will attempt to follow to ensure they stay in a group.
Patrick was in the middle of the draft on the high side of the racetrack on lap 161 when several of the lead cars began to slow and head to pit road exiting turn four. From the high side of the racetrack, Patrick attempted to get down to the bottom lane and slow to the 55-mph pit road speed mandated by NASCAR.
Unfortunately, Patrick overshot pit road, slid through the grass and missed her pit stall. The error forced her to make another lap before pitting, and then Patrick had to serve a drive-through penalty as her initial entry onto pit road was faster than 55 mph.
“We just didn’t communicate well on that final pit stop,” Patrick said. “We were on the high side and couldn’t get down to where we needed to be to pit. We were trying to pit with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). I know it’s a challenge for the spotters – you’re trying to work with other spotters on when to pit and obviously keep track of the on-track stuff. It’s a lot, and it’s happening fast. You have a split-second to make a decision, and we should have made another lap. We weren’t where we needed to be. You need to be on the bottom when you’re pitting, and we didn’t do that. We’ll discuss it and learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s disappointing, and none of us feel good about it. You win as a team and lose as a team. It’s tough for everybody. The GoDaddy guys gave me a great car.”
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 30 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed third. Patrick remains 28th in the point standings and has 565 points.