Event: Hellmann’s 500 (Round 32 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 30th/20th (Running, completed 192 of 192 laps)
Point Standing: 23rd (621 points)
Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) scored a 20th-place finish in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Patrick started the race from the 30th position and drafted her way up to 16th before completing the first lap. She remained inside the top-20, running as high as sixth before the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet team pitted at lap 39 for tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Trouble on the right-front tire dropped Patrick back to 34th after the stop, but luckily the caution flag waved at lap 41, allowing her to catch up to the lead pack.
For the first half of the race Patrick ran all three lines – top, middle and bottom – in an effort to see what would work best for the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet team. She was scored in the 19th position when the caution flag waved again at lap 114. The team pitted three times under caution – twice to address the issue with the right front and then the final time for tires, fuel and a packer adjustment.
Patrick primarily ran the top and middle lines for the second half of the race. With less than 50 laps to go she was scored in the 11th position, and with 25 to go she was 25th. A late caution set the field up for an overtime finish. Patrick restarted from the 23rd spot, was scored 15th on the white-flag lap and took the checkered in the 20th position.
“The top and the middle worked best for us today,” Patrick said. “Every time I got stuck in the bottom lane it seemed like we would drop back. The No. 10 Nature’s Bakery team did a great job all day, and we ended up with a decent finish.”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday by finishing fourth.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished seventh.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 32nd.
Busch and Harvick came into Talladega as members of the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Talladega, however, served as an elimination race, with the four lowest Chase drivers not advancing to the Round of 8.
Harvick moved on to the Round of 8 care of his win Oct. 16 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Busch earned his way into the Round of 8 as his point tally during the Round of 12 put him solidly among the top-eight. Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski were the four Chase drivers who failed to advance.
Joining Harvick and Busch in the Round of 8 are Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. All had their respective point tallies reset to 4,000.
Three races will be run in the Round of 8, with the next cutoff coming after the Nov. 13 race at Phoenix International Raceway. Then the Chase field shrinks to four drivers who will advance to the final, winner-take-all Championship Round Nov. 20 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Logano won the Hellmann’s 500 to score his 16th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Talladega.
Brian Scott finished .124 of a second behind Logano in the runner-up spot, while Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five. Kyle Larson, Harvick, Aric Almirola, Dillon and AJ Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 25 laps with three drivers failing to finish the 192-lap race around the 2.66-mile oval, which went into overtime and finished four laps beyond its scheduled distance.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the seventh race of the Chase – is the Oct. 30 Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!