Ricky Vs. Danica: Who's On Top After Talladega?
There's nothing that NASCAR heartthrobs Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick love more than strolling down Talladega Boulevard on a fall Friday night and taking in the sights, which are plentiful.
After Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, however, Ricky definitely left the gargantuan central Alabama superspeedway in a better mood than his GF. That's because he completed a nerve-wracking afternoon of racing in grand style, scoring a career-best third-place finish, his first top five in 37 Sprint Cup starts.
"We've learned a lot," Ricky said. "I think we're getting better as a team, and I'm learning a little bit more about what we need to do from practice to the race to make our car still fast throughout the race. It's been fun the last month or so, and we just need to keep it going."
Alas, things did not end as well for Danica.
While she qualified mid-pack and ran in the top 10 for much of the day, in a 500-mile race that only has 10 caution laps, all it takes is one small mistake to ruin your day. And that's exactly what happened to the GoDaddy girl.
In this case, the mistake happened on a pit stop on Lap 161.
While pitting with several of the leaders, Danica overshot pit road, slid through the grass and missed her pit stall. The error forced her to make another lap before pitting, and then she got a drive-through penalty for breaking NASCAR-mandated 55 mph speed limit on pit road.
This was proof that two wrongs don't make a right.
"We just didn't communicate well on that final pit stop," Danica 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."
So instead of a top 10 or maybe even contending for the victory, Danica finished a hugely disappointing 33rd.
"We weren't where we needed to be," Danica said. "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."
So with Ricky finishing third and Danica 33rd, the Mississippi racer is definitely on top heading into Martinsville, where the GoDaddy girl will be buying the hot dogs all weekend long.
Scoreboard after 32 races:
Ricky â 19th in points, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s, best finish of 3rd.
Danica â 28th in points, 0 top fives, 1 top 10, best finish of 8th.
Better race finish â Ricky 28-4 over Danica.