- Brant James, Contributor, espnW.com
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Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. said the shoe chucked into Danica Patrick's path and run over by the race-leading No. 7 Chevrolet in Saturday's Nationwide Series race in Montreal had no bearing on the two unrelated parts problems that soon after relegated her to a 27th-place finish.
"The shoe didn't have anything to do with it," Eury Jr. said in a phone interview with espnW.com. "It was funny listening to everybody talk about the shoe. I've never done that before. It could have done something to the splitter or went through the radiator just as easy and took the radiator out, but as far as the problems we had with the car, it was no relation."
NASCAR officials confirmed that the individual who tossed the shoe over a safety fence was escorted from Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. His footwear remains in the sanctioning body's possession.
Patrick led for 20 laps, a NASCAR career high and three more than her season total at that point, and was out front when she struck the shoe on Lap 38 of an eventual 81.
Eury Jr. said Patrick, who had noticed handling and weight-shifting oddities prerace, began complaining over the team radio about her steering about two laps before she hit the shoe. Eury Jr.'s crew had performed preventive measures on Patrick's car, he said, after she bottomed out on the track bar when a bracket hit a curb during qualifying and because JR Motorsports teammate Ron Fellows had suffered a track bar failure on the left side of his car during practice. A bracket fell from Patrick's car during the race as she drove through a corner.
"I honestly thought the track bar mount was coming off the frame on the left side to start with," Eury Jr. said. "Basically what happened was the car was wheel-hopping so much -- she wheel-hopped it a couple times getting deep into a brake zone -- it basically stretched the U bolts and the pinion shims came out, so that loosened the truck arms up."
The problem seemed less catastrophic as Patrick was able to nurse six more laps, slipping to third place, before pitting for repairs. She topped off her fuel just before a restart on Lap 49, theoretically putting her back in position to contend, Eury Jr. thought. Although deep in the field at 30th, Patrick was the only driver not in need of another fuel stop.
"We had our problem fixed, we were sitting good because we were good to the end on fuel, and then I think when Elliott (Sadler) pitted -- he was leading the race -- he ended up being six seconds behind us," Eury Jr. said. "As everything cycled back around, we were going to be back in the lead, but we broke an axle five laps later. So it was actually the axle breaking that took us out the event."
Eury Jr. said the axle issue occurred independently of the track bar problem.
"You put new axles in before the race, you do all this stuff, and it's just a combination of jumping curbs -- you can see all the pictures of cars a foot in the air -- and when you're under full power and one tire is on the ground and the other is not and it slaps the ground, it puts so much stress on those axles, basically that's what happens," he said. "We basically just jumped too many curbs, and we paid the price.
"So it was two different problems. We actually had the first one fixed and were looking pretty good, but the final one kind of broke the camel's back."