Ruptured tire ends Patrick's day on Lap 114
NEWTON, Iowa – Danica Patrick used the potent motivation that comes with getting lapped to redouble her efforts Sunday at Iowa Speedway. She had no remedy for the ruptured right front tire.
Patrick's 10th race of her first full-time NASCAR Nationwide season ended abruptly on Lap 114 when her No. 7 Chevrolet lurched into the wall between Turns 3 and 4 and sustained heavy damage after her tire failed. Defending 15th position before the crash, she finished 30th.
Crewmen scrambled around the race car in the garage bay, but it was quickly apparent that its damage was terminal when crew chief Tony Eury Jr. strode methodically, gear in backpack, from the garage bay to the JR Motorsports hauler. Patrick was waiting inside for his update.
"It was a bummer because we were having our best short track weekend yet, and these have always been the biggest challenge for me," said Patrick, who was 19th at Bristol and 21st at Richmond this season. "So it would have been nice to try and get a top 10 here today, but unfortunately I have to wait until the late summer."
The series returns to Iowa Speedway on Aug. 4.
Eury Jr. preliminarily diagnosed the failure a result of "brake heat" that degraded the bead of the tire.
"You're using a lot more brake here," he said. "[The tire] just goes."
Addressing an earlier, different brake problem with pit stop adjustments might actually have precipitated the catastrophic one.
"The first run we had brake chatter from low temp," Patrick said. "The second run we did tape up the brake ducts so that we could get more temperature, so the chatter would go away, and [we] must have gone too far. I didn't turn the brake fans on because I figured we were probably in the zone after having it too cool the first run. But a lesson for next time I guess: Keep them as cool as you can until the chatter happens, I guess."
Patrick had qualified ninth but fell progressively back through the field as she attempted to manage her tight-handling car around the confines of the seven-furlong track.
She had joked during a Saturday news conference with eventual race-winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. that he shouldn't lap her if given the opportunity, but the points leader did just that on Lap 71. Running 16th, her worst of the day, Patrick was awarded her lead lap spot back on a Lap 73 caution, however. Jeff Green prompted the caution after walloping the wall following his own right front tire failure.
"There's nothing like almost going a lap down to fire you up, and when it went back green again after that yellow I was letting it all hang out to try to get by everyone as quick as possible," Patrick said. "I said to my husband the other day in the bus, it's like sometimes you just need that extra fire, like to get going. I wish it happened all the time."
Mini-battles for position were frequent on the short track, and Patrick rolled into one of her most contentious on Lap 96 as Mike Bliss caught her from behind as she worked to pass Brad Sweet.
Patrick retained 10th place in the driver standings but fell to 179 points behind Stenhouse. The Sunday DNF was her second of the season and second-worst finish. She was 35th at Fontana, Calif., because of an engine failure.
"I think we would have a good day," she said, "but that's the way it ended."