Danica Patrick saw a top 20 run fall apart Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. After starting 31st the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was hoping for a good finish and slowly fought her way forward during the first half of the race. However, on lap 120 she saw her day come to a crashing end.
Patrick was running 19th exiting turn four and was running low along the frontstretch when she moved in front of the No. 5 Chevy being driven by Kasey Kahne. The two made contact and Patrick’s Chevy was turned headlong into the wall. The car went airborne before coming to a stop low on the track. Patrick exited her car and walked back towards the track gesturing at Kahne as he passed by.
“We were on a restart and I had a run on him so I went down low,” Patrick said. “If you get too close to them then it will drag you both back. I was going low. I saw him chase me down the track and then the next thing I know I was getting spun up the track. I am I was passing him. He was behind me in the right rear. “
Patrick seemed to put the blame on Kahne. She finished the day in 38th.
“I don’t know what kind of day he was having,” Patrick said. “I just heard he was a lap down actually. I feel bad if he felt like he was put in a position to have to be that desperate a lap down. It’s just unfortunate; he must be having a very tough time. I was having a pretty good recovery day, kind of like last weekend. I was just running good race laps and on the lead lap at the end of the race back up into the top 20 from a bad starting position. And I was looking forward to a good finish and a good off week. Unfortunately now there is more work to be done at the shop, which is not I’m sure what they want, but we had a good TaxAct car and Billy (Scott, crew chief) did a good job to set-up for today and we were moving forward.”
NASCAR called Kahne and his crew chief to the NASCAR hauler after the race. For his part Kahne wasn’t sure what had happened, he finished 28th.
“I passed her in (Turns) 3 and 4 and then she had the momentum off the top and went back under me going down the front stretch,” Kahne said. “So I went just to kind of catch a side draft to make sure I was in position getting into Turn 1 and it didn’t hold me up when I got there because I was the one coming and I just got too close and the car was moving around and we hit and she had a bad wreck. I felt really bad because it was far from anything than just trying to hold my position. I’ve never had an issue with Danica at all. It was an avoidable accident in the middle of the straightaway that was far from anything but just trying to hold my position that I had just gained.”
After his visit to the NASCAR hauler, Kahne said it was no big deal. He finished 28th Sunday.
“I don’t see the NASCAR hauler very often, other than signing in on Friday mornings,” Kahne said. “They just wanted to make sure that everything was OK from my perspective and there were no hard feelings prior to the wreck or anything like that. Not at all.”
Patrick’s Chevy wasn’t the only car to take a hard hit. On lap 47 Kyle Larson lost a left rear tire exiting turn 2; he hit the backstretch wall then slid down and hit the inside SAFER barrier. The car went airborne before coming to rest, but Larson was uninjured.
“We were struggling all day,” Larson said. “We were really bad. And just on that backstretch, my left rear tire got cut and spun me to the outside wall and then spun me back into the inside wall. By the time I could hit the brakes it must have ripped the brake line and I had no brakes. They just went to the floorboard. I couldn’t slow down and had a hard hit there; head-on. I’m okay. I’m thankful for Safer barriers and thankful that I’m all right. That was definitely probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had in my career. I’m glad to be on my feet right here.”