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DANICA PATRICK - 2014 Darlington Race Report
Event: Southern 500 (Round 8 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1.366-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 33rd/22nd (Running, completed 374 of 374 laps)
Point Standing: 29th (143 points)
Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing in a green-white-checkered finish (Cheverolet)
Danica Patrick’s goals in Saturday night’s Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway were simple: Race the racetrack and take what the car and the track would give. Patrick’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, told his driver that if she focused on those things throughout the night at one of the toughest racetracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, she would have a good night and a solid finish.
When the checkered flag waved, it was mission accomplished for Patrick and her No. 10 GoDaddy team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as she ended up with a solid 22nd-place finish.
“Tonight was such a big improvement for us from where we have been in the past at this track,” said Patrick, who made her 54th career Sprint Cup start and her third at Darlington. “The guys gave me a really drivable GoDaddy Chevy, and we kept making improvements to it all night. I just needed it to turn a little better. I’m just really proud of Tony Gibson and all the guys tonight. The guys on pit road did a great job all night long, and really, it was just a good night for me and the entire team. We’ll take this and look forward to the next race after a well-deserved break.”
Patrick battled a tight-handling racecar from the drop of the green flag, but she was able to give feedback to Gibson and her crew that helped them make improvements to her GoDaddy Chevy at each stop. Despite going a lap down early in the race, Patrick and the crew did not give up.
Instead, they continued work to improve the car in the pits, and Patrick worked to put herself in position on the racetrack to get back onto the lead lap.
Throughout the night, the crew made a series of trackbar, wedge and tire-pressure adjustments throughout the race, while also making a shock adjustment to help improve the handling of the racecar. The crew also took advantage of both the wave-around rule and the “Lucky Dog,” which allowed Patrick to get back on the lead lap.
The changes made the car better throughout the night, and by the end of the race, Patrick was solidly in the top 25, finishing in 22nd-place.
Gibson agreed that the night was a success for Patrick and the entire team.
“We talked about it starting on Monday at the shop,” Gibson said. “I told Danica to focus on racing the racetrack, and if you focus on that, you’re always going to get a good finish. And that’s just what she did tonight. She gave good feedback on the car all night, which helped us to keep working on it and making it better for her. A 22nd-place, lead-lap finish at Darlington is a big improvement for us from last year. I’m really happy with what Danica and this whole GoDaddy team did tonight.”
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent Saturday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway by winning the Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It was the 22nd points-paying Sprint Cup win for SHR since its inception in 2009.
Harvick started first and led seven times for a race-high 238 laps en route to scoring his first win in 18 career Sprint Cup starts at Darlington. It was also his 25th career victory in 474 career Sprint Cup starts.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished ninth. It was his 12th top-10 in 22 career Sprint Cup starts at Darlington. It was also his 294th top-10 in 529 career Sprint Cup starts.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, was fighting for a spot in the top-10 when he was hit from behind ending his night. He finished 31st.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished .558 of a second behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Stewart and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 50 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 374-lap race, which was extended seven laps by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round eight of 36 complete, Stewart leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 12th with 224 points, 73 behind first-place Jeff Gordon. Harvick is 22nd with 186 points, 111 out of first. Kurt Busch is 26th with 164 points, 133 out of first. Patrick is 29th with 143 points, 154 out of first.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off for Easter before returning to action April 26 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway for the Richmond 400. The race starts at 7 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 6:30 p.m.