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Patrick 30th after bumped out by rival
Danica Patrick’s patience with Sam Hornish is just about kaput.
Patrick was running 15th at Dover International Speedway when her former open-wheel rival and current stock car nemesis Sam Hornish became loose under the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet on the front stretch and knocked her out of contention on Lap 131 on Saturday.
“Oh (crap),” Patrick said after she made contact with Brad Sweet to draw the fifth caution.
“Shocker, real shocker,” Patrick replied to her spotter T.J. Majors after he told her it was Hornish who triggered the incident.
“He was loose when he got up into you there,” Majors said. “He probably had a tire going down.”
Patrick and Hornish competed against each other in go-karts as youngsters and again in the IndyCar Series. But it was an incident between the two drivers in the closing laps at Talladega last month that rekindled the rivalry.
On Saturday, Patrick was forced to retire to the pits on Lap 133. Her only consolation was when she discovered she wasn’t Hornish’s only victim. Hornish nailed Tim Bainey Jr. 15 laps later.
“Oh,” Patrick replied sarcastically. “Oh.”
Patrick finished 30th, 67 laps off the pace. She started 17th and dropped one position before the team’s first set of pit stops during the second caution on Lap 28 — triggered by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s wreck on the backstretch.
Patrick reported, “Just loose the whole way around. The right rear is just stepping out.”
Patrick was nailed for speeding off pit road and was forced to start 26th — at the end of the longest line and in front of the lucky dog recipient.
Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. opted for air pressure adjustments when NASCAR called a competition caution on Lap 42 after Patrick complained the car was still loose. Eury warned his driver, “Be on your toes with these tires,” when she restarted 21st, as he could tell that the rubber build up on her tires were affecting the ride.
Patrick radioed the crew that her car was “sliding everywhere” after race leader — and eventual winner Joey Logano — put the No. 7 Chevrolet one lap down. Eury then suggested, “Well, you have to drive it into the corner harder to get it to slide up the banking. You’re running a second and a half off of what you were so it’s going to be freer. … You need to run up about 3 feet higher off of (Turn) 4.”
Following her pit stop on Lap 121, she cycled out 17th when Timmy Hill wrecked just behind Patrick to ignite the fourth caution.
“Good job pit crew, good job driver, that kept you from going two laps down,” Eury said.
During that caution Patrick explained that she developed “aero push” at the back of the pack.
“If I slow down too much I’m loose,” Patrick said. “It’s like a double compounded problem. Quite honestly I have to go into the corner like no one is behind me — and sometimes it gets interesting.”
But Patrick’s comeback was short-lived. After restarting 15th four laps later, she was collected in the incident with Hornish. Eury sent her to the garage for repairs. With less than 20 laps remaining in the race, Patrick asked, “is there any spots to be gained” or experience with the car if she returned to the track. Initially, Eury asked her to make a couple of circuits. On Lap 190, 57 laps off the pace, Patrick made an attempt at a run but was told just to stay on the apron.
“Thanks for trying,” Patrick radioed to the crew.
When the race ended, Patrick told reporters she wasn’t sure what happened between her and Hornish.
“We were all going gangbusters on the restart,” Patrick said. “The tires were so good that you try to use them. I was racing the car in front of me (Sweet), and the car behind me (Hornish) was racing me, so I’d have to see it to know. But more than anything, it was just kind of a bummer because I was just starting to get into a rhythm, I think.
“I struggled a lot at the beginning. The slower you go, the looser it is because the car is up and off the track. Once I finally just stopped using the brakes so much I got going a little faster. It was just a bummer for the team. I always hate to see them in the garage working their butts off like that. I hate those fire drills. And a bummer for GoDaddy. I would have liked to have got them a nice result here. We’ll learn from this and come back better."
Although Patrick finished 30th, it was an improvement on her 35th-place debut at the Monster Mile two years ago. However, Patrick dropped two positions to 11th in the point standings. Elliott Sadler (seventh) took over the Nationwide Series points lead from Stenhouse Jr. after the No. 6 Ford finished 32nd.
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