Danica Patrick: Has Tony Stewart's Deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing Backfired?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IApril 2, 2012

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 04:  Danica Patrick unveils her #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for the 2012 season with team owner Tony Stewart following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Stewart Haas Racing made what they thought was a win, win deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing to guarantee that Danica Patrick wouldn't have to qualify the No. 10 car while learning to drive it.

It looked like not only a wise decision for SHR, but TBR would have the expertise of a team affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports hanging around the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet and some monetary perks too.

The No. 10 car would be driven for 26 points races by David Reutimann who is a driver for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Patrick would drive the other 10 points races with her SHR team and Hendrick horsepower and chassis.

The agreement between SHR and TBR was described as a collaborative agreement. It guaranteed that Patrick would not have to qualify for the Daytona 500 because the car was in the top 35 of owner points.

Daytona didn't turn out too well for Patrick, but at least she didn't have to risk not being in the first of her 10 Cup races that she will run in 2012.

Drivers for teams in the top 35 of the owner points from the prior year are guaranteed a starting spot for the first five races of the season. As of race six, they are on their own to stay in the top 35.

Well, along comes the sixth race of the season at Martinsville and, low and behold, Reutimann and his team struggled with the No. 10 car that eventually finished 79 laps down in 35th position.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  David Reutimann, driver of the #93 BK Racing Toyota, sits in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Phot
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The poor performance not only knocked Reutimann's team to 36th in owner points, but caused a game-changing finish as the driver attempted to keep his wounded car on the track.

In what became quite the controversial ending to a race, Reutimann failed to maintain speed and was black-flagged by NASCAR, but he remained on the track apparently unable to get to the pits.

After the race, Baldwin displayed the broken tie rod part that supposedly kept his driver from being able to turn on to pit road. The car then stalled on the track and brought out a caution in the final laps.

The day turned from what looked to be the 200th Cup win for Hendrick Motorsports to seeing the two dominating cars of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson slip-sliding away into the the wall and one another.

Clint Bowyer who made the move for the lead on the restart was also caught up in the melee of the restart and a green-white-checker finish allowed Ryan Newman to take the checkered flag.

Reutimann looked like a man beaten, mentally and physically, after the race.

While many blamed the driver of the No. 10 for staying on the track when he should have gone to pit road, he made it clear that he would never do such a thing.

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 24:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, walks on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 24, 2012 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferr
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Reutimann is a nice guy who got the ride with TBR on short notice just before the 2012 season began. Little did he know how important his performance would become.

TBR runs Earnhardt-Childress engines and gets technical support for Reutimann from Richard Childress Racing.

They struggle to keep sponsorship on the car and equipment is hardly the latest and greatest despite where it comes from.

Reutimann finished 26th at Daytona after being involved in an accident. At Phoenix, his finish was 36th place with an engine failure.

At Las Vegas he finished down six laps in 31st, Bristol was 21st and three laps down, Fontana showed a 27th place finish and two laps down then at Martinsville he finished 79 laps down in 35th position.

Reutimann drives whatever car he has to the best of his ability and he is a decent driver, but the best he ever finished in the point standings was 16th in 2009.

At Texas, Reutimann will have to use horsepower and hopefully a pretty good set up on the car to qualify for the Samsung Mobile 500. He should be able to make the field, but where he ends the race is key.

The wheels could be coming off the cart that was suppose to keep Patrick from having to qualify for a race. Her next appearance in the No. 10 will be at Darlington in May.

The reliability factor of the No. 10 for Reutimann is questionable at best. If the car does not stay in the top 35 of owner points, would Stewart and company rescue the car with engines and support?

There is no doubt Reutimann is feeling perhaps more pressure now to run mediocre than when he was just driving to win races on a full-time basis for previous team owners. He has two Cup wins.

One could imagine there was more than water cooler chat about the collaborative partnership at Stewart-Haas Racing the day after the race at Martinsville.

Is it possible that the grand plan to help Patrick will backfire? Will the GoDaddy.com driver need to qualify on speed for some or all of her remaining nine Cup races this season?

Say it isn't so.