Patrick unscathed after flat, hard hit

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comMarch 4, 2013 

— Danica Patrick didn’t have any grand expectations for her second Sprint Cup race of the season – she just wanted to get her hauler out of the dirt that adjoins the garage area.

Patrick’s Chevrolet team doesn’t have the points to draw a prime garage position. She progressed last week at Daytona, winning the pole and finishing eighth at the superspeedway.

Then Sunday happened: A violent crash that ripped and shredded sheet metal with a little more than 100 laps to go in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Patrick had a tire go flat with no real warning through Turn 4. She hit the wall hard, then collided with David Ragan, whose Ford almost ran over the side of Patrick’s car.

The familiar green-and-orange sheet metal from Patrick’s car not only ripped off the car, large pieces were shredded like brittle bacon in the accident. Protective foam between the car’s sheet metal and frame sprayed everywhere, forcing NASCAR to reroute other cars along pit road during cleanup.

But Patrick was fine, quickly released from the infield care center.

“It took a hard hit on both sides, (but) I’m fine. NASCAR does such a good job with safety,” Patrick said on Fox’s telecast. “It just (stinks) to lose those points” that would have come with finishing the race.

Was this the worst collision of her short NASCAR career?

“Oh, probably Daytona (last season) was a little bit bigger,” Patrick said. “Whenever those right-front (tires) go, (you) always hit hard because they don’t broadside. You kind of hit more straight-on.

“There was no vibration the lap before to tell me it was going to happen.”

Patrick started 40th Sunday after a poor qualifying effort Friday. She had worked her way up to 26th, on the lead lap, before the flat tire and the collision knocked her out of the race.

“We’re parked in the dirt this weekend,” Patrick mentioned. “I really wanted my guys in the garage.”

During various interviews leading to Sunday, Patrick tried to temper expectations built on her strong performance at Daytona. A superspeedway serves as the best carryover from her open-wheel days.

Phoenix is a very different track – 1 mile, with more opportunities to pass, so less advantage to starting up front.

Patrick said Friday she knows every race won’t be like Daytona, that some bad weekends loom, she just didn’t know when.

Sunday and that flat tire made her point.

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