Danica Patrick saw a potential top-15 finish go away due to a poorly placed piece of trash and finished 25th in the STP 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was in the top-25 on lap 164 when she radioed to crew chief Tony Gibson that her engine was running hot. A quick check of the grille on Patrick’s Chevrolet reveled that much of it was covered by a piece of trash picked up somewhere along the 1.5-mile oval on a windy day.
A quick attempt to suck up behind the car of Jeff Gordon to remove the debris was unsuccessful. So Gibson ordered Patrick to pit road before the engine overheated and expired.
It took mere seconds to pull the trash off the grille. But the damage was done as Patrick returned to the track in 31st place, two laps behind the leaders.
“We started out pretty good, but we just got tight in the second half of the race,” Patrick said. “We had a tire rub at one point and issues with the splitter from some contact we made. The trash on the grille was what really hurt us today. The temps went way high, and we had to pit to pull it off. That put us two laps down. It’s disappointing because I think we could have had a much better finish with the Go Daddy Chevy, but it’s one of those things that’s out of our control. The pit crew was awesome, I think they did a 12.1 (second stop), which I didn’t even think was possible. They did great today.”
Gibson was disappointed with the finish but managed to look at the positives.
“She did a great job, and it was definitely a top-15 car,” Gibson said. “We made improvement and the pit stops were good, but you can’t do anything about the trash on the grille. It’s just one of those things we just can’t control. That’s just part of it. But the bright side is that we finished again and got a lot of laps in, and we made some improvements and made a lot of gains. I felt like today was a positive day.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Code 3 Associates Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 14th, while Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 21st.
Matt Kenseth won the STP 400 to score his 26th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Kansas.
Kasey Kahne finished .150 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Mark Martin and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 40 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
With round eight of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings but dropped one spot to 17th. He has 200 points, 111 back of series leader Johnson and 40 behind 10th-place Paul Menard. Stewart moved up one spot to 21st in the standings and has 181 points, 130 out of first and 59 behind Menard. Patrick also moved up one spot and is 25th with 154 points, 157 behind Johnson and 86 away from Menard.
Eighteen races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 drivers in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 14 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 11th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Toyota Owners 400 Saturday, April 27 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.