The spring Bristol Motor Speedway was not the same as the Bristol Motor Speedway the drivers came to this past weekend. After uneventful racing in the Spring, track owner Bruton Smith took bulldozers to the track and ground the top of the track, creating a whole new Bristol. Or the new old Bristol. New new Bristol? It’s still unclear what the drivers are calling it.
But for Danica Patrick, it was the track that kicked off a run of four double duty races in six weeks. With the No. 10 locked in thanks to being 33rd in owner points, the rain washing out qualifying didn’t hurt her. Patrick was last in both practices, so it was likely she would have ended up in the 43rd position anyway.
Patrick was looking forward to Bristol, looking at the new construction as a challenge.
“It’s going to be more challenging now without the top line,” she said. “It’s going to make it a little more bump and go kind of racing, which could still be fun, as long as I’m the one bumping.
“I’m looking forward (to) going there with the Cup car because every time I run the Cup car I feel like the Nationwide car stuff goes better, so hopefully we can get our first really great result on a short-track.”
While Patrick’s Nationwide race was uneventful – she finished ninth and on the lead lap – her Cup race was quite different.
Starting 43rd, she had to work her way through the field if she wanted to contend. Cautions began rather quickly, on lap nine. Patrick stayed out of trouble, but after Joey Logano took over the lead, he began lapping cars.
By lap 50, Patrick was a lap down. It would take until lap 149 (caution six) for her to get back on the lead lap.
Staying out of trouble, Patrick’s race was status quo, until lap 434, when Regan Smith collected Patrick and ended her day (Smith took immediate responsibility for the wreck). Patrick recorded her first Cup DNF, ending the day 66 laps down in 29th.
After the wreck, Patrick spoke to the media about the incident.
“We’re all racing hard. This is Bristol and this is why people love this track is because you see a lot of that and you see tempers flare,” she said. “It’s usually part of the broadcast and when they describe what’s going to happen. It was just a bummer because I really felt like the GoDaddy car was going to get a solid, maybe a top 20 finish and on the lead lap. And that wouldn’t have been something that I thought would happen tonight. The team did a great job and everything was running really smoothly. So it’s a shame that we lost that. But you know, Bristol is a place where you find out who’s playing fair and who’s not.”
Denny Hamlin eventually took the victory, his first at Bristol. It was a landmark night for the No. 11 car, earning its 200th win. Brad Keselowski, favored to win, was involved in a wreck and finished right behind Patrick.
Toyota swept the weekend, winning with Timothy Peters in the Truck series, Logano in the Nationwide series and Hamlin in the Cup series.
Next week, Patrick will make her first Nationwide and Cup starts at Atlanta.
“I’ve heard lots of great things about Atlanta. It’s good racing,” she said. “The tires definitely go off with the surface, and the line moves around a lot. I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it. For me it’s going to be a big weekend not only from the standpoint that there’s Cup and Nationwide, but it’s a big Coca-Cola weekend so I’ll be really busy.
“I think nothing is better than going to a new track and having lots of track time.”
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.