DARLINGTON, S.C.—Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS bounced of the Turn 2 wall with about 25 minutes left in opening practice, forcing the team to roll out a backup car. Patrick had posted the 31st fastest lap in opening practice before the accident.
Patrick was new tires when she hit the wall, and crew chief Tony Gibson had just tightened up the handling characteristics of the car.
“The car was just a little more free than I thought it was,” said Patrick, who was 38th fastest in the back-up car during Happy Hour. “You know, it’s a learning process … and it reminds me that, if I’m trying to achieve a balance out there on the track, I just have to discipline myself to take care of Turn 2, because it’s so important to get through 3 and 4.”
Last year, in her first Sprint Cup start at Darlington—also her first Cup start at an open-motor race track—Patrick’s comfort level was nil. Friday’s wreck occurred in part because she felt more confident pushing the envelope on her return trip to the Lady in Black.
“Last year, we were last (in practice) and really felt very uncomfortable out there,” Patrick said. “This time I felt much more comfortable, to the point that I was hanging it out a little bit more and exploring the limits of the car—and I explored too far.”