Just a week after another top-20 finish at Michigan, Danica Patrick was unable to repeat her success at Bristol. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver struggled to stay on the lead lap throughout the race and experienced issues that led to a 27th-place finish.
Dealing with a tight car and getting spun out by Alex Bowman, Patrick was unable to put together a strong finish at Bristol. As a result, she finished seven laps down and remained well outside of contention for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
In need of a victory and narrowly remaining inside the top 30 in points, hopes for making the Chase are slim. Patrick was unable to nail down a good result at Bristol but has a chance to recover in Atlanta.
Only two races are left as Patrick looks to make NASCAR's postseason. If Patrick can't clinch a win during that short window, she will be on the outside looking in for the final races of the season.
But with no top-20 finishes at the track during her career, it doesn't appear likely that Patrick will contend for that elusive victory. Here's a look at the Sprint Cup standings and the latest news on Patrick ahead of the Oral-B USA 500.
|Danica Patrick 2014 Results|
|Irwin Tools Night Race||Bristol Motor Speedway||24||27|
|Pure Michigan 400||Michigan International Speedway||14||18|
|Cheez-It 355||Watkins Glen International||43||21|
|GoBowling.com 400||Pocono Raceway||10||30|
|Brickyard 400||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||14||42|
|Camping World RV Sales 301||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||29||22|
|Coke Zero 400||Daytona International Speedway||29||8|
|Quaker State 400||Kentucky Speedway||10||21|
|Toyota/Save Mart 350||Sonoma Raceway||11||18|
|Quicken Loans 400||Michigan International Speedway||27||17|
|Pocono 400||Pocono Raceway||16||37|
|FedEx 400||Dover International Speedway||28||23|
|Coca-Cola 600||Charlotte Motor Speedway||4||39|
|5-Hour Energy 400||Kansas Speedway||9||7|
|Aaron's 499||Talladega Superspeedway||7||22|
|Toyota Owners 400||Richmond International Raceway||35||34|
|Bojangles' Southern 500||Darlington Raceway||33||22|
|Duck Commander 500||Texas Motor Speedway||24||27|
|STP 500||Martinsville Speedway||10||32|
|Auto Club 400||Auto Club Speedway||27||14|
|Food City 500||Bristol Motor Speedway||36||18|
|Kobalt 400||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||22||21|
|The Profit on CNBC 500||Phoenix International Raceway||33||36|
|Daytona 500||Daytona International Speedway||27||40|
|2014 Sprint Cup Chase Grid|
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||818||3||11||16|
Much like her season thus far, Patrick's finish at the short track was a bitter disappointment. After slowly improving at the short track throughout her career, Patrick struggled to find any consistency on the track.
The SHR driver notched an 18th-place result earlier in the season but was unable to mirror that success over the weekend. Patrick spoke about the unfortunate result at Bristol, per USA Today:
It was just a rough night. Our GoDaddy car just wasn't that good from the beginning, and that kind of put us behind. The guys kept working on it with their adjustments, and they got it headed in the right direction, but it was just too late by that point.
I think we all just did the best we could to hang in there, make the car better and try to make a good night out of it. It wasn't the finish that we wanted, but we didn't give up.
Though she didn't reference the accident with Bowman, it was clearly a factor for Patrick.
Struggling to remain in contention, the mishap with Bowman put her further behind the pack and ultimately seven laps down. There was clearly no intent behind the contact, but Bowman issued an apology on Twitter:
By Lap 38, Patrick had already dropped a lap and was no longer in contention for a strong result. Already two laps down, Bowman's contact with Patrick hurt any chances of getting back to the lead lap and dropped her two more laps behind.
Following the race, Patrick stated her thoughts on the incident and her plans moving forward, per Dustin Long of MRN:
I think we're fine. He’s just got to know that when you do that and you don’t leave room for error and you hit me and take me out, I’m right there. As soon as I find you again I’m going to let you know I’m not happy. We’re fine. If he does it again, worse things will happen. That’s all.
The frustrating result didn't end in Patrick's favor, but she was still available after the race for her fans. SHR's Instagram account captured this picture of the driver signing autographs after the Bristol race:
Rather than heading to a track where she's enjoyed success, Patrick will need to turn around her fortunes at Atlanta. The Oral-B USA 500 marks a chance for her to prove she can compete in NASCAR, but she'll need a phenomenal run.
Here's a look at Patrick's career results in Atlanta:
|Danica Patrick Atlanta Results|
|Date||Finish||Start||Laps Led||Driver Rating||Status|
|Sept. 1, 2013||21||21||0||61.1||Running|
|Sept. 2, 2012||29||23||0||43.6||Running|
Looking to turn things around for the better, Patrick is in desperate need of a great finish at the difficult track. But without a top 10 since the Coke Zero 400, Patrick's chances at duplicating that success is not likely at Atlanta.
The only chance for Patrick to make the Chase is by way of a win in the final two races. As the postseason fast approaches, she might be left without a chance to contend for a title in the final races.
Though she still has a glimmer of hope for making the Chase, a victory is a necessity for one of NASCAR's most polarizing figures. Unfortunately, that won't come at Atlanta as she continues to struggle with the Chase on the horizon.
Predicted finish: 24th
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