Danica's momentum comes to halt
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Danica Patrick's burst of momentum, much like her No. 10 Chevrolet, lost forward progress on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
The heightened expectation made it only more disappointing, as Patrick finished 32nd and six laps down at a track where she had shown an unexpected aptitude recently.
"It was a disappointing day," she said. "We ran so well at Martinsville last year, but we struggled all race long today."
Patrick finished 12th and 17th last season at the .526-mile short track, a tricky venue requiring patience and pace that does not come easily. After producing her best non-restrictor plate qualifying position of her Cup career -- 10th -- on Friday, expectations increased further. But the No. 10 Chevrolet was not responsive in race conditions, a problem crew chief Tony Gibson never had a chance to address because both practices were canceled due to rain on Saturday. Teams had not raced Martinsville with a new setup package mandated this season by NASCAR.
The team, Gibson said, "Just missed it."
"It was loose. No power down," Gibson said. "Got hung on the outside there for a while and never could go forward. Just never had any forward drive all day.
"I think the race track just never took rubber and we didn't expect that. It hurt us for sure. We never raced this style of setup here before, and we needed more time on it."
As a result, Patrick plummeted from the onset, dropping from her starting spot to 33rd and lapped by Lap 145. Gibson skipped multiple pit stops in the 500-lap race in an attempt to regain lost laps, without success.
"Tony made changes every time we came to pit road, and really hit on something around halfway," Patrick said. "But, by that point, we were already a couple of laps down. We tried staying out on a couple of the cautions to take the wave-around and get a couple of laps back, but it wound up biting us toward the end when we had to make a green-flag pit stop because the tires were killed. So, needless to say, it wasn't the finish we were looking for today."
Patrick, who began the season with a 40th-place finish in the Daytona 500, had improved her finishing position every week -- and was 14th at Fontana, Calif., last week.