Following Danica Patrick: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa
By: Farrah Kaye
Before Saturday’s race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had won the last three races at Iowa Speedway. Even when his engine blew and he was wrecking with teammate Carl Edwards, he still came to the checkered flag first to keep his wining streak alive.
Danica Patrick, on the other hand, had been there once in a stock car, posting a 30th position with a DNF for a crash.
Coming off a streak of wrecking seven of her last eight race cars, anything was possible during the weekend. Patrick was all over the place, finishing third in the first practice, 21st in the final practice and started 18th.
Before the race, Patrick said crew chief Tony Eury Jr. had a game plan for her and their approach to the race: get back to the basics.
“(I need to) be calm, be cool (and) focus on the racing,” Patrick said. “We didn’t put much focus on qualifying. It’s not making an excuse. I think our car is consistent.”
The plan worked out, as Patrick didn’t wreck and had only a minor run-in with the wall towards the end of the race. She brought home the car in 11th and stays 10th in points.
“I think our car was relatively consistent over the whole run,” she said. “It was a solid day for the GoDaddy car. We were having a stretch of not-so-great races. I just have to do better at getting around lapped traffic (and) cars in general.”
Patrick has been vocal about not doing well on short tracks so doing well at Iowa was a surprise. What made the difference?
“It’s just experience and time, of course.” she said. “Tony (Eury Jr.) and I are getting more in sync with what I need out of the car. We focused more on race runs and consistency over time.”
In the race, since it was a standalone event, many new faces popped up, showing race fans what the future of NASCAR might look like, including Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. who was in the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing (started second, finished seventh and led 36 laps); Ryan Blaney in the No. 22 for Penske Racing (started 13th, finished 10th); and Brett Moffitt in the No. 99 for Michael Waltrip Racing (started 10th, finished ninth).
While Justin Allgaier led the most laps, he finished second to race winner Elliott Sadler, who was on a mission after losing the race at Indianapolis last week.
“It’s been a tough week. We really felt like we should have won that race last week. My dad had knee surgery this week, and he gave me the best advice. He said, ‘Do not let them (NASCAR) take this championship away from you. Go to Iowa and kick their butts,’” Sadler said. “I think we’re going to be really good for the rest of the year. I’m driving with a lot of confidence, and crew chief Luke Lambert is making a lot of good adjustments right now. We’re probably communicating better right now than we have all season long.”
Sadler now leads the Championship battle by 18 points over Austin Dillon and 21 points over Stenhouse as they head to Watkins Glen.
Farrah Kaye is a NASCAR columnist for CBS Local Sports and is a member of the NMPA. Her previous articles have appeared on SPEEDtv.com, newsweek.com and she holds a degree in Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @Farrah_Kaye.