By Farrah Kaye
Danica Patrick hoped luck would be on her side this weekend at Bristol. After all, she would be racing on St. Patrick’s Day in a four-leaf clover-covered racecar. And her last name is Patrick, so that had to help her beat last year’s 33rd place finish where she was 55 laps down.
Speaking with the media on Friday, she said she feels comfortable at the half mile track, although it “didn’t make sense” to her.
“Maybe it has to do with the banking,” Patrick said.
After a disappointing start to the season (38th, 21st and 12th), Patrick hoped her special St. Patrick’s Day paint scheme would help her.
“I used to drive a go-kart when I was younger, called a Tony Kart, that was a rich, kind of bright green (like this),” Patrick shared. “It has four-leaf clovers all over it, how lucky can it be?”
Patrick qualified for the race 27th after finishing 15th and 26th in practices. She drove as high as 19th and as low as her starting position. She was a lap down halfway through the race and went two laps down with 50 laps left.
With usual spotter TJ Majors being used for team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Rick Carelli told her to give someone a “shot in the bumper” when she was upset with a driver (Majors will return to Patrick next week).
That driver could have been Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who at one point said over his radio “she just don’t get it” when he couldn’t get by her.
So far this year she has had run-ins with Cole Whitt and former teammate Aric Almirola.
After finishing 19th and two laps down, Patrick said the team lost their way but at least “the GoDaddy car (got) to the finish.”
Patrick added it takes “consistent concentration” to get through a race at Bristol, as well as not making mistakes.
“It comes naturally (to me), focus and concentration,” she said. “I just have to work on qualifying better and getting faster.”
Next week the circuit heads to Auto Club Speedway (Fontana), where Patrick last raced in 2010. She finished in 30th place, 9 laps down and recorded a DNF for a crash.
Elsewhere in the race, Elliott Sadler took his second checkered flag of the season, yet again shutting out the Cup drivers from winning. Rounding out the top five were Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
There was a good battle between Nationwide regulars – and Roush Fenway teammates – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne for about 75 laps until a caution fell and pit strategy put Sadler in the lead. Stenhouse finished sixth and Bayne finished eighth.
On the tight lanes of pit road, Sam Hornish Jr. hit a member of the No. 08 crew. The crew member was okay but the hit was so hard it left a dent in Hornish’s front left bumper. Hornish also hit the wall and was one of the four cautions during the race.
Patrick leaves Bristol 12th in points, 91 points behind leader Elliott Sadler.
“I think it’s way too early to make any kind of judgement of how the season is going or how I thought I would be doing,” she said about 2012 so far. “Anything can happen.”
With just a few weeks before she gets back behind the wheel of her Cup car, Patrick was informed the car she co-pilots with David Reutimann is now outside of the top 35 in owner points.
“I’m sure it will be fine, that’s just how it goes,” Patrick said. “Over time, things balance out and in time, the car will be in the top 35 and it will be fine.”
She joked, “I didn’t help anything!”
With Bristol behind her, she heads to the west coast with wishes to all:
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day, from an Irish woman!”
Farrah Kaye is a NASCAR columnist for CBS Local Sports and is a member of the NMPA. Her previous articles have appeared on SPEEDtv.com, newsweek.com and she holds a degree in Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @Farrah_Kaye.