Danica Patrick's early season of unmet expectations continued Saturday as she suffered her first mid-race engine failure in seven years and finished 35th at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Patrick's No. 7 Chevrolet lasted just 63 of 150 laps before expiring and requiring a push back to the garage from crewmen. Patrick and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. had spent the moments before the failure discussing her car's oil and water temperatures, which were fluctuating. A foot-long piece of steel was later discovered to have penetrated the grille and radiator and ruined the cooling system.
"Uh, is that it? Did the engine just give?" she asked while being pushed to the garage.
Patrick, who complained over the team radio that the engine was "scuffling," said the engine had cut off on the straightaway before expiring. Patrick had not had a race end because of an engine failure since a 2005 IndyCar event at Michigan International Speedway.
The timing was horrible as she continues to look for a positive starting point to the season.
"It's a bad luck issue, and, unfortunately, we've been having a lot of that to start the season," she said on television.
Patrick conceded it has been "a little bit of a tough start" and it is "a shame to keep getting knocked down like this."
Her first full-time season in the Nationwide series has certainly been a chore. After being hit by JR Motorsports rookie teammate Cole Whitt and finishing 38th at Daytona, she has finished 21st at Phoenix, 12th at Las Vegas and 19th at Bristol. Her stated goal in her third race at Fontana was a top-10 finish, but she finished 30th or worst for the third time. She had started 21st and advanced no higher than 20th before the incident.