Following Danica Patrick: STP 300 At Chicagoland Speedway
When the NASCAR Nationwide Series pulled into Chicagoland Speedway, Danica Patrick was at home. Literally. The Roscoe, Ill., native calls Chicago home and a win at the track nestled just outside the city would be extra special.
Before the race, Patrick hoped the car would perform and improve throughout the race.
“We’re just trying to really improve our race speed throughout (the race) from the beginning of the run,” Patrick said. “Hopefully the car is consistent.
“The car was relatively good in practice but wasn’t as good as we wanted in qualifying.”
But Patrick was never a contender in the race. While she posted second in the final practice, she started thirteenth and often struggled to stay on the lead lap. Twice she received the “Lucky Dog” to put her back on the lead lap and complained of a loose car throughout the race. While she didn’t record a DNF, she finished 14th, the last car on the lead lap.
With 13 start-and-park cars in the race, that’s smack in the middle of the field.
In the rest of the STP 300, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dominated the race, it was points-leader Elliott Sadler who ultimately took the checkered flag after a late-lap wreck between Sam Hornish Jr., Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan. Gaughan and Hornish had both spent much of the race up front and the wreck was heart-breaking for both of them.
Hornish took blame for the wreck with what Twitter users called a “lame” excuse. Hornish claimed his hood pints appeared to be coming loose and he was looking at them and by the time he looked up, he had hit Busch. As soon as the in-car chatter was aired, #HoodPins began trending and the NASCAR nation – fans, media and Cup crews home on an off weekend – began coming up with excuses for various things in their life and blaming it on hood pins.
Gaughan, who was able to finish the race while Busch wasn’t, called Hornish out on his excuse:
Well, almost had a great weekend. Came up just a little short… Did you know that we can't see our hoodpins while sitting in our seat?—
Brendan Gaughan (@Brendan62) July 22, 2012
In post-race inspection, the No. 09 of Kenny Wallace, which made a rare appearance and placed fourth, was too low and a penalty should come down Tuesday. The 09 was a rare second car for RAB Racing, as the No. 99 was fielded for Travis Pastrana, who finally finished a Nationwide race without wrecking.
Next week, the series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in the series’ history. All eyes will be on Patrick, who was already asked about it before she left Chicago.
“I think there was definitely a feeling when I left IndyCar that I was leaving (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) in a way, so it caught me by surprise that I’m going to go back,” Patrick said. “It’s still Indy and still the same famous, wonderful track and, as I said in the IndyCar days, makes heroes.”
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.