Patrick’s decent start in Coke 600 ends in poor finish

It was a long night for Danica Patrick in more ways than one during Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Gerry Broome/AP

Coming off a career-best finish at Kansas Speedway and her best career non-restrictor plate qualifying effort, Danica Patrick got off to a strong start in Sunday’€™s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver took the second spot from Brad Keselowski on just the fourth lap of the race.

Despite her strong start, the No. 10 Chevrolet began to fall back after the first round of green flag stops. Patrick dropped out of top 10 on Lap 72 battling a loose car, telling her crew, "I’ve got my hands full."

From then on out, it was all down hill for Patrick and her SHR crew.

Patrick fell a lap down to race leader and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick on Lap 91 while running in the 13th spot. She was able to get back on the lead lap by using the wave around, but their struggles with the handling continued.

While on pit road under green, the caution flew on Lap 148 for debris on the backstretch. The team was able to complete service, but was 27th, two laps down to the race leaders. For the second time of the night, Patrick took the wave around when the leaders came in for service.

"This just isn’t going the way I thought it would go," she told crew chief Tony Gibson. "As quickly as we lost it, we can get it back."

Just past halfway, Patrick — running two laps down in 24th at the time — reported the engine sounded like it dropped a cylinder. Trying to encourage his driver, Gibson told Patrick to ride it out and do the best she could the rest of the night.

"Oh dear," she responded. "It’s going to be a long however many laps that are left."

"I’m not telling you guys anything you don’t know or see, but this sucks," she reported with 150 laps to go.

As if the engine issues were not bad enough, Patrick was collected in a wreck on Lap 236 as she slowed to avoid the spinning car of Marcos Ambrose. When Patrick slowed for Ambrose’s spin off Turn 4, Brian Scott could not get slowed down and plowed into the back of the No. 10 car, damaging the right rear.

Limping around multiple laps down, the engine under the hood of the No. 10 Chevrolet finally blew up on Lap 287, ending Patrick’s day early.

"It’s really unfortunate," said Patrick, who ended the night in 39th. "We started off great and started to get tighter and tighter. We couldn’t really figure out how to fix it. We had a good plan for the next yellow, then dropped a cylinder and lost power, then got rear-ended. That was our day. We’ll just remember the good stuff that happened here at Charlotte and at Kansas last race and build on that for Dover."