Her second attempt at the famed Bristol Night Race ended slightly better than the first. After starting 22nd in the race, Patrick battled a loose handling car and just 100 laps into the race, she slapped the wall going in to turn three. After the incident, her night was anything but glorious.
The wall cause significant damage to the right side of her car and bent the splinter down. Patrick, under caution, had to make multiple trips down pit road for repairs and battled the car the rest of the night.
“Overall, I would honestly say we are still on a good streak of running strong,” said Patrick in a press release after the race. “There is nothing you can do about getting into the wall and having damage. We came back as best as we could and made the car as good as it was at the end. That is a positive. My goal, honestly, in my mind is like, ‘Man, if we can come away with a top-30 with having these problems, then that is all right,’ and we finished 26th through attrition and staying out of trouble. We will take it and move on.”
Her crew chief Tony Gibson thought the lessons Patrick learned on the track were impressive despite her finish.
“I think we were a solid top-20 car before the accident happened,” Gibson said. “Danica was doing the right thing on the track, and as far as I’m concerned, we had a good weekend here. We have to focus on the positives on a night like this. I appreciate her and the team not giving up and hanging in there together tonight.”
At the end of the night, Patrick finished 26th and multiple laps down.
Picking herself up after a tough week at Bristol, Patrick and her team head to Atlanta to tackle the quad-oval. Patrick made her Atlanta debut last season in the Sprint Cup Series race where she finished 29th.
“The first time I raced there was last year and I did both Nationwide and Cup,” she said. “That seems like a long time ago and that was only my fifth Cup start, so I feel a little more confident and knowledgeable than I did a year ago. It’s a fast place. The tires definitely go off with the surface and the line moves around a lot.”
Earlier in the week, Patrick and the team tested at Richmond in preparation for next weekends race. All of Stewart-Haas Racing was there at the test, including veteran driver Mark Martin, who hopped in to Patrick’s car to help her and the team set it up.
“The test went really well. And I’ve always been happy to have other drivers in my car at a test, especially someone like Mark with all his experience,” she said. “For me, as a rookie, I think it’s important to get a different perspective and get someone else’s thoughts. Mark has so much experience and he’s been so helpful to me, even before we were teammates, so I was happy to have him in the car. Anything that will make me better and SHR better as a whole, I’m all for.”
There are just 12 races left in the season and Patrick continues to improve and grow as a Sprint Cup Series driver. With new teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch joining her and Tony Stewart in 2014, SHR is going to be the organization to watch.