Danica pulls double duty during All-Star weekend
May 19, 2013, NASCAR.com
Danica Patrick raced twice Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
First, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year was on the grid for the Sprint Showdown, the 40-lap event that precedes the Sprint All-Star Race. The top two finishers from the Showdown qualify for the main event later in the evening.
Patrick finished ninth, but her night wasn’t done because she won the Sprint Fan Vote, which qualified her for the All-Star Race.
Patrick was ready just in case, boasting a “Thanks Fans” sticker she immediately put on her No. 10 Chevrolet … next to the picture of Stephen Colbert.
Patrick went on to finish 20th in the 22-car Sprint All-Star Race.
The five other members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family drove in the Sprint All-Star Race as well, with Joey Logano placing second behind only winner Jimmie Johnson.
Denny Hamlin (sixth) joined Logano in the top 10.
A roundup on the Coca-Cola Racing Family:
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Recap: Although it wasn’t a points race, perhaps Saturday’s effort is exactly what Logano needs to break out of a slump that has produced three finishes outside the top 20 in the series’ past four points races. Two of those finishes were outside the top 30. On Saturday, Logano had a good pit stop prior to the final 10-lap segment in the All-Star Race, and he chased down everybody except for race winner Jimmie Johnson to finish second.
Quotable: “It was entertaining to say the least. I thought all my guys did a great job calling the race, keeping that average finish up. I thought we were a fifth- to sixth-place car in the beginning of the race and we just needed to get track position, and I felt like if we got our track position we could run decent. I think we averaged fifth and then we came down pit road, beat one car out which put us in the second row, and in the back of my mind before the race started I felt like I needed to be in the second row with 10 to go to at least have a shot at this thing. My guys got me what I needed there and then it was up to me to make of the most of what I had.”
His standing: Logano is 19th in the standings with 259 points.
Outlook: Logano could use a win, but more than anything, he needs points. Perhaps they will come at Charlotte in this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. Logano is strong at the 1.5-mile track, boasting five top-10s in eight career starts there. He finished ninth at the most recent Charlotte points race and has a career-best finish of third in the 600-miler.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Recap: Only a handful of cars were good enough to have a shot in the Sprint All-Star Race, and Hamlin didn’t think his No. 11 Toyota was one of them. Although he was displeased with his finish, Hamlin still finished sixth, second-best among both Toyotas and the Coca-Cola Racing Family. The driver heads to Charlotte 61 points outside of the top 20.
Quotable: “I expected a little more out of us honestly. Disappointing night -- we just kind of ran mid-pack all day with the pit crew picking us up some spots there at the end. That’s what got us our finish, but just disappointed with our run with our FedEx team. We should have had a little bit more than that, but just overall didn’t have the front-end grip that we needed to compete with the front-runner.”
His standing: Hamlin is 27th in the standings with 197 points.
Outlook: Hamlin has been consistent at Charlotte, but not spectacular in his career work. He’s been pretty darn good, though, lately. In fact, Hamlin has five consecutive top-10s at the track, three of which were top-fives. Hamlin finished second in last year’s Coca-Cola 600 and has two consecutive second-place finishes at the 1.5-mile track.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Newman finished 13th in the Sprint All-Star Race, and he had one of the most aggressive moves of the night. In the No. 39 Chevrolet, Newman tried to speed past Kyle Busch when the green flag flew for the fourth and final 20-lap segment, but he ended up making contact with Busch’s No. 18 and was not-quite rewarded with a tire rub, which sent him to pit road. Newman started the final 10-lap segment in 15th-place. Newman has participated in each All-Star Race since joining the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as a rookie in 2002, the year he won the non-points event.
Quotable: “We battled a lack of grip, a lack of track position and handling issues all night. The front end wasn’t right tonight. I don’t know that we would have been better toward the front of the pack and in clean air, but we never really had the opportunity to find out, either. I think we’ll be able to apply some of what we learned here tonight for next weekend.”
His standing: Newman is 17th in the standings with 276 points.
Outlook: Newman is among a handful of drivers that has the look of a top-20 finisher, but he owns no wins. Because of that, there’s not much separation between 15th and 20th place. Newman sits 17th, less than 20 points behind 15th-place Jamie McMurray and less than 20 points ahead of 20th-place Jeff Burton. Charlotte isn’t one of Newman’s best tracks -- his last top-10 was in 2010.
Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Stewart certainly belonged on the track Saturday night in an All-Star Race loaded with veterans and rising superstars. After all, Stewart is a three-time series champion and has 47 wins at NASCAR’s highest level. But Stewart didn’t shine on the bright stage, and he finished the event 14th out of 22 cars (20 finished on the lead lap).
Quotable: Following the race, Stewart said to his team on the radio: “Keep your heads up, guys. We’ll figure this out. Just have to keep working at it.”
His standing: Stewart is 21st in the standings with 253 points.
Outlook: A strong Charlotte showing could finally land ‘Smoke’ inside the top 20 -- he’s five points out of the all-important position. Don’t count on a victory -- his lone Charlotte win came in 2003 -- but perhaps Stewart will break through in the longest race on the circuit. Then again, the driver’s last top-10 in the Coca-Cola 600 was 2007.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Recap: In a non-points race, Biffle still couldn’t find his mojo. The driver of the No. 16 Ford finished the event 15th after starting third. That precipitous drop was due to slight contact with another car early in the 90-lap All-Star Race, which caused a rear tire to go down. That actually put Biffle off the lead lap before the final 10-lap segment that determined the winner.
His standing: Biffle is 13th in the standings with 311 points.
Outlook: Biffle has been successful at intermediate tracks of late, and Charlotte is no different. In 2012, Biffle finished fourth in both races at the 1.5-mile speedway. Another such showing Sunday would likely vault Biffle into the top 12 in the standings once more, putting him back in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field.
Danica Patrick (No. 10)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Recap: Patrick was named one of five finalists in the Sprint Fan Vote before the Sprint Showdown began. When she didn’t finish in the top two of that event to qualify for the Sprint All-Star Race, it was announced that the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet would drive in the All-Star Race by virtue of winning the Sprint Fan Vote. Patrick, who finished ninth in the Showdown, would finish 20th in the All-Star Race.
Quotable: “First and very foremost, thank you to all the fans who voted for me or maybe voted so many times for me. I’m very fortunate to have the fan base that I do, and I never forget that. It really just makes me feel bad to win the Sprint Fan Vote and run in the back of the race. We just couldn’t get the GoDaddy Cares Chevrolet right. We were just too tight. The guys did a great job on pit road. That goes without saying. It was just a tough night, but hopefully we are able to figure out what was wrong, and we can come back here next weekend and have a better run.”
Her standing: Patrick is 28th in the standings with 196 points.
Outlook: Patrick’s third career start in the Sprint Cup Series came at Charlotte in last year’s Coca-Cola 600, and she finished 30th after qualifying 40th.
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