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Danica: 'Record horrible day' at Watkins Glen

August 08, 2014, Zack Albert,

Switches engine, crashes into tire barrier at road course

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Danica Patrick's Friday at Watkins Glen International wasn't off to a roaring start with an engine change after opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice. In the last two minutes of final practice, it took a dramatically worse turn.

"It has been a record horrible day, I'm pretty sure," Patrick said. "Why not stack it on?"

Patrick nosed the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Chevrolet into the Turn 5 tire barrier at the end of the 85-minute second session, forcing her team to unload a backup car for Saturday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying (11:40 a.m. ET, ESPN2). Crew chief Tony Gibson said that a shock failure caused compression on the left-front tire, which gave way at the south end of the 2.45-mile track.

"I have no idea," Patrick said after being evaluated and released at the infield care center. "It was only the second lap on tires. Apparently, the 20 (Matt Kenseth) was radio-ing in saying there was some smoke. I never saw any. He said he saw it and you guys should pit. Just in the carousel, there's so much load on the left-front there, I guess that was the go spot for it." 

Patrick said that she tried to downshift to slow the car or possibly cause a slighter impact on the car's side, but that the car wound up crunching in headfirst. 

"I'm just not used to crashing at such slow speeds that I needed first gear to save it," Patrick said. "Anyway, I'm sure it would've been not good either way. I just kind of hit my hand. It was one of the slow ones. What a terrible day." 

Earlier in the day, Patrick's crew changed engines after she over-revved the motor on a missed shift during opening practice. According to the rule book, she will start Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the rear of the field after the unapproved change.

Patrick's result in Coors Light Pole Qualifying will determine only her team's selection of pit stalls, but should help the team sort out the car before Sunday's main event. 

"We will just treat qualifying like another practice session," Gibson said. "We will run as many laps as we can run and work on the car."

Patrick was 32nd-fastest of the 43 drivers to participate in opening practice, and managed only 36th-best before her crash in final practice. While she walked away uninjured after a Friday she'd rather forget, Patrick hoped the worst of her misfortune was behind her. 

"The only positive thing is that I'm hoping I'm using up all my bad luck and mistakes and all the bad stuff in one day, so that I can get it out of the system before we got to the next one," Patrick said. "On the second thought, I suppose that after an engine change this morning we were starting in the back anyway. Third, I would say if you are going to have to start at the back of a track the strategies are all over the place on road courses and it just might push us into something that works."


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