It's still early in the season, but envisioning Danica Patrick in the Chase for the Sprint Cup is becoming increasingly more difficult.
Following another poor result at Martinsville during the STP 500, reaching the front of the pack was never in reach for Patrick as she finished outside of the top 20 for the fourth time this season through six races.
The No. 10 car finished 27th at Texas Motor Speedway after falling two laps behind, just one spot behind boyfriend and fellow sophomore driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Despite her best efforts to regain control of her Stewart-Haas machine, Patrick was unable to get back on the lead lap throughout the race.
Any sort of good fortune taken away from both Bristol and Fontana is now clearly lost. Patrick now has consecutive finishes outside the top 20 and heads to Darlington, a track where she has never been successful at the Sprint Cup level.
Here's a look at where Patrick sits in the standings and the latest news for the SHR driver.
|Pos.||Driver||Car||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|6||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||228||1||4||4|
|Duck Commander 500||Texas Motor Speedway||24||27|
|STP 500||Martinsville Speedway||10||32|
|Auto Club 400||Auto Club Speedway||27||14|
|Food City 500||Bristol Motor Speedway||36||18|
|Kobalt 400||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||22||21|
|The Profit on CNBC 500||Phoenix International Raceway||33||36|
|Daytona 500||Daytona International Speedway||27||40|
Following a great week for Stewart-Haas, in which Kurt Busch pulled off the second win for the team, Patrick actually finished second on the team with her 27th-place result.
The only driver with a decent finish was team co-owner Tony Stewart, who snuck into the top 10, as SHR's official Twitter account points out:
The Duck Commander 500 @TXMotorSpeedway is over. Stewart P10. Patrick P27. Kurt Busch P39. Harvick P42. Joey Logano wins.— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) April 7, 2014
Perhaps no driver has dropped off as quickly as Patrick this season, as Jeff Owens of Sporting News notes:
All that momentum from decent finishes at Bristol and California has vanished. Patrick struggled to a 27th-place finish and nearly got into a wreck with boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. That they were racing for position two laps down is not a good sign for either driver.
Along with facing the disappointment of another poor result in Texas, Patrick also might have upset her friends joining her after the race.
The 32-year-old put out an interesting tweet following the race, which states she planned to do a slightly different dance than the Texas two-step:
Me and my girls were so ready to twerk tonight........ 😫— Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) April 8, 2014
Patrick also left with a feeling of disenchantment off the track in Texas as well. Before the race got underway, she went to AT&T Stadium to take in the NCAA tournament Final Four and was rooting for the Wisconsin Badgers, who were ousted by eventual runner-up Kentucky.
A photo from the game was shared on Patrick's official Twitter account:
Whoa! This is a lot of seats. Don't always claim my birth state since I grew up in Illinois, but I'm cheering for WI. pic.twitter.com/zSBNIQeSyZ— Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) April 5, 2014
Luckily for Patrick, NASCAR has officially left Texas. Unfortunately, the Sprint Cup circuit now heads to Darlington, another track where the driver has never experienced success.
Two races at any oval is a small sample size to make a judgement for a driver, but Patrick's results in South Carolina prove that she hasn't been able to put up improved results from other tracks.
Here's a look at Patrick's results for the track:
|May 11, 2013||40||28||0|
|May 12, 2012||38||31||0|
Without a top-20 finish in her last two races, don't expect one to come while trying to tame the "Lady in Black." Patrick's team will continue to get in a groove, but not having any sort of momentum heading into Darlington will make it difficult to get back inside the top 20.
Predicted Finish: 27th
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.