After a great run at Martinsville, the GoDaddy team was looking to carry that into this last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Danica Patrick started the weekend off on a high note as she arrived at the track decked out in full western gear, even sporting a cowboy hat and the big belt buckle given to her by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. last season. But as the race weekend got started, Patrick’s chipper attitude changed as her team, and the other Stewart-Haas Racing cars, started to struggle.
Patrick and her No. 10 GoDaddy team seemed to struggle at Texas with the setup of the car. After running well during the first and most of the second practice sessions, it looked like this could end up being another great weekend for Patrick, but then things started going downhill.
After a poor qualifying run left her starting 42nd out of 43 cars, Patrick had to fight her way to the front once again.
At the start of the 500 mile race, Patrick was fighting a very loose race car. When Crew Chief Tony Gibson came over the radio asking her how bad it was, she responded with a shaky voice, “4 out of 5” loose. A caution allowed her team to make some adjustments but she was already lapped by the leaders.
As the laps counted down, Gibson and his team made major changes to her car and by midway through the race, it was much better than it had been. Unfortunately, on a track like Texas, once you go down multiple laps, it is hard to get them back. Danica ended the day P28 and three laps down to the leaders.
Although there were some rough spots in the race, the banter on the radio was still light and funny. A late race caution that left many confused as to where they started caused this little conversation between Danica and her Crew Chief, “I feel like I don’t understand what’s going on here.” “We got no beef with any of these guys so stay clean.”
At the end of the day, or night I should say, this was another great learning experience for Danica and her team. She had made one previous start at Texas in the Sprint Cup Series at the end of last season and it was also the first race she was paired with Gibson.
“It was a tough night,” Patrick said. “The car was just kind of all over the place at the beginning. Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the GoDaddy guys kept working on it all night, and we made some improvements on it. The pit crew did a good job on the stops. We just need to get better on the 1.5-mile tracks. I know the team will keep working at it. We’ll see what we can do in Kansas.”
She does indeed head to Kansas Speedway this weekend for her second start there in the Cup Series. She made her debut there last October after the track was repaved. She was battling Landon Cassill throughout the race, bumping and banging each other until Danica had had enough. She bumped Cassill on the backstretch trying to turn him but instead she sent herself spinning, ending her day. She had a top 10 finish in the Nationwide Series there in October.
Looking at the next few weekends heading into the summer, the tracks look promising for Patrick and her team. Talladega, a super-speedway, should be another great finish for Patrick and following Talladega is Darlington. The season is just starting for this Rookie and she has plenty of time to improve as she heads into the summer months. And as she heads into the Kansas weekend, she currently leads the Rookie points over her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr.