Danica downer: Patrick will miss NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
MAY 16, 2014 8:47p ET
As a Sprint Cup Series rookie last season, Danica Patrick failed to race her way into the Sprint All-Star Race but was voted in by the fans.
This year, Patrick also failed to race her way in -- and this time the fans didn't have her back.
Unable to grab one of the two transfer spots awarded to the top two finishers from Friday's Sprint Showdown qualifying race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Patrick learned immediately afterward that Josh Wise -- a little-known driver beyond the world of NASCAR -- had won the Sprint Fan Vote and landed the final spot in Saturday night's 90-lap event that showcases the sport's top stars and pays $1 million to win.
"Our GoDaddy Cares Chevy just got way too tight in that second segment, and I just couldn’t carry any speed and get the car to turn the way I needed it to. I had to slow down to get it to turn," Patrick said. "We would have liked to have raced our way into the all-star race tonight, but it just didn't happen. The guys gave a good effort, and we'll learn from this."
Patrick finished the first 20-lap segment in ninth-place and started the second segment in fifth after coming down pit road for right-side tires and air pressure and wedge adjustments.
"I wish we'd have ran better," said Tony Gibson, Patrick's crew chief since her rookie Sprint Cup season of 2013. "We were better in practice than that and we tightened the car up, and that's my fault. We were just way too tight on two tires right there. We ran on two tires in practice today when it was warmer and it ran OK on two, so we made an adjustment to try to help it free up a little bit but it just wasn't enough, and then with a short run we just couldn't make anything happen.
"It's disappointing not being in, but I wanna race my way in. The fan vote's great and all that kind of stuff but I wanna race my way into these races. So it's disappointing, but we're not going to let it get us down. We learned a lot of stuff today that will help us for next week, and everybody's heads are still high. I made a mistake tonight and we couldn't recover from it."
Patrick thanked her fans for their support, despite not being voted into the main event as she was in 2013.
"It's my understanding that I had more votes than I did last year, but you know, it is what it is," Patrick said. "I don't doubt my fans at all. I know they voted, and I'm grateful for all they did to try and get me in the race."
Gibson wasn't surprised to see Wise -- buoyed by help from a massive Internet following -- take the Sprint Fan Vote in what amounted to a major upset.
"I think they figured out a way to work it pretty good there and that's what the fans wanted, so you've got to give the fans voting what they want," Gibson said. "It's kind of like American Idol or whatever that show is, but it shouldn't come to that, anyway. You shouldn't rely on having to get a vote in like that. You should run good enough. Anybody who runs the all-star race needs to be good enough to win it. It's disappointing but I would much rather race my way in and feel better about the competition tomorrow."
No more sorry's guys! You rocked it! Everything happens for a reason!— Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) May 17, 2014
Gibson doesn't believe Friday's disappointment will blunt the momentum Patrick's No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team gained from last Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, where Patrick posted a career-best seventh-place finish. Gibson also expects his driver to fare better in next weekend's Coca-Cola 600 -- the longest race on the Sprint Cup schedule and a stark contrast to Friday's Sprint Showdown, which consists of just two 20-lap segments.
"This 20-lap deal, it's kind of a shootout deal," Gibson said. "It's a deal to where it's 20 laps and half of those end up being under caution. If you hit it (with the car setup), you're money. If you don't, you're kind of screwed. In the 600 you'll have some time to adjust on it, and your car's going to go through different cycles, so you've got more time to work on it and you'll start with a different plan and end with a different plan.
"We're looking forward to next week. That's what pays the points. Yeah, we want to be in (the all-star race) -- don't get me wrong; we're disappointed -- but we're not going to let it get us down."
Thank u to my AMAZING fans for ur votes! Y'all helped me have even more votes than last year! Your support blows me away! On to the 600!— Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) May 17, 2014
As for any negative impact that Patrick's absence might have on Saturday night's all-star race and the sport in general, Gibson demurred.
"I don't know if it hurts it or not," he said. "The fans have got to vote. If they want her in it, then they've got to vote. I don't know. I know a lot of people would like to see her in it -- don't get me wrong -- but we didn't deserve to be in it. We didn't run good enough tonight to get in it, so that's where we're at."