Following a career-best finish at Kansas and the disappointment of being shutout of the All-Star Race, Danica Patrick looked promising heading into the Coca-Cola 600.
Unfortunately, those hopes went up in smoke on Lap 241, much like her teammate Kurt Busch earlier in the race. Both drivers suffered a blown engine late in the race and bowed out at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Frustration boiled over for Patrick, as she spoke over her team radio about the issue, per Jeff Owens of Sporting News, "Who the hell didn't see that coming? Sorry guys, definitely not what we wanted but we did some good things this weekend."
Despite the rough finish, Patrick was up near the front of the pack early before engine issues began to hinder her run. Qualifying in fourth and running up in second place early on, the No. 10 machine lost a cylinder and dropped to 39th by the end.
As the Sprint Cup circuit now heads to Dover for the Fed-Ex 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks, the schedule flips over to June. While Patrick will still attempt to ride the momentum from the seventh-place finish in Kansas, she'll have to do so at a track where she's never eclipsed the top 20.
|Rank||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||394||1||6||7|
|Coca-Cola 600||Charlotte Motor Speedway||4||39|
|5-Hour Energy 400||Kansas Speedway||9||7|
|Aaron's 499||Talladega Superspeedway||7||22|
|Toyota Owners 400||Richmond International Raceway||35||34|
|Bojangles' Southern 500||Darlington Raceway||33||22|
|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|
Coming into the Coke 600, Patrick had all the momentum on her side.
Following a top-10 at Kansas, Patrick qualified fourth and was one of the top-three drivers in practice runs late in the week. That performance had Jeff Gluck of USA Today believing Patrick might do something she's never done before:
A few weeks ago, the thought of Patrick achieving even a top-10 at the Coke 600 would have seemed silly. She was a threat to win on restrictor-plate tracks like Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, sure—but a 1.5-mile track like Charlotte?
But Kansas changed everything. Patrick was solid all weekend, and she's carried the momentum right into Charlotte. Her confidence is high and there's reason to believe a top-five finish—and, yes, maybe even a win—is possible.
Putting it simply: It just wasn't Stewart-Haas Racing's night.
Outside of Kevin Harvick, no driver finished inside the top 10. While the No. 4 car once again notched a top five, Tony Stewart wound up 13th as the other two members of the crew finished the race in the garage.
While Busch was simply attempting to stay on the lead lap throughout the race to complete the double, Patrick was contending before engine troubles began for her. Even before the engine blew, she was hindered previously, as Fox Sports: NASCAR notes:
Those engine issues weren't the only problems for Patrick on Sunday night. As Marcos Ambrose spun out in front of her, Patrick slowed up to avoid further damage to her car and was hit from behind by Brian Scott.
Patrick was none to pleased about the incident, per Alan Cavanna of NASCAR.com:
"I didn't expect everyone to be so stupid. I was basically stopped," @DanicaPatrick says, after being hit after slowing down— Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) May 26, 2014
After two rough weeks at Charlotte, Patrick and the SHR team is likely very happy to head to another track. With Dover now on the schedule for Patrick, she will have to turn around her fortunes in Delaware to get her season back on track.
Here's a look at Patrick's career results at Dover International Speedway:
|Date||Start||Finish||Laps Led||Driver Rating||Status|
|Sep. 29, 2013||31||29||0||42.8||Running|
|June 2, 2013||39||24||0||44.0||Running|
|Sep. 30, 2012||38||28||0||42.0||Running|
Where will Patrick finish in Dover?
If Patrick is to recover at "The Monster Mile," she'll need to lean on teammate Harvick once again. Though SHR has struggled mightily this season with keeping cars on the track, his success has carried the team outside of Busch's lone win at Martinsville.
Without a top 10, much less a top-20 finish, the lead up to Dover will be crucial for Patrick. If she can get the No. 10 machine near the front of the pack again in qualifying, confidence will once again return for the GoDaddy team.
Given the fact that she hasn't put together a good result to this point in three starts, it's difficult to slot Patrick inside the top 20. That's not to say she can't, because she's more than capable of pulling off surprises with a car that will stay on the track.
Predicted Finish: 23rd
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: