By: Farrah Kaye
In a rare occasion, Danica Patrick wasn’t in the spotlight during pre-race media availability. Thanks to a rare road course weekend, JR Motorsports brought in road course “ringer” Ron Fellows, even making a contest on Twitter out of his appearance, calling it #Fellows5.
The weekend at Watkins Glen started out in the rain, with NASCAR forcing the Nationwide cars to make a lap on rain tires so they could put a time down and form the qualifying order for the following day – where rain would not be a factor.
“It feels terrible out there,” Patrick said of running in the rain. “But we have to make a lap. That’s all we’re doing – making the timed lap. We just wanted to get done before there were more people out there.”
The rain eventually stopped and teams who chose to run later in the day practiced in regular conditions.
Patrick’s weekend started off average, posting 19th in the only practice and qualified 23rd. There were over a dozen drivers making their first appearance at Watkins Glen but there were also the usual start-and-parkers who would be out of the race rather quickly, so the starting position seemed to be a non-entity.
Fellows, Patrick’s teammate for the weekend (along with regular teammate Cole Whitt), said the new up-and-coming drivers had one advantage over him.
“The ‘video game generation’ are a lot more in tune when they get to the track,” Fellows said. “They seem to get up to speed quicker. It’s never as easy for us experienced guys.”
Patrick, for the record, said she doesn’t play video games.
Whether or not Patrick plays video games and having Fellows’ experience on her side didn’t matter. In the middle of lap one, Ryan Truex spun and crashed into Patrick. While Truex was able to fix his damage and get back on the track, Patrick took her car straight to the garage with major damage to her radiator. While Patrick kept her distance from the media who had gathered around the scene, her crew fixed the damage.
Patrick climbed into the car and when she cranked it up, water came out of the tailpipes. The team loaded the car onto the hauler and officially recorded Patrick’s sixth DNF of the season and in 43rd position.
“I think that one thing leads to the next. The radiator was leaking,” Patrick said. “(It) might have been losing power. When they got the radiator changed, we went to fire it and water was coming out of the tail pipes – water isn’t supposed to come out of them.”
Of her day Patrick said, “A lot of stuff (is) out of your control. But that’s racing, as they say.”
In a rare Nationwide appearance, Carl Edwards took home the win followed by Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ron Fellows. The Championship battle was shaken a bit after some bad luck for Austin Dillon, as he fell to fourth in the standings, while Elliott Sadler remained on top and Stenhouse and Hornish moved up to second and third, respectively.
Patrick leaves Watkins Glen 11th in points, losing one spot. The Nationwide series heads to a standalone race in Montreal next week while the Truck and Cup series are at Michigan.
After Montreal, Patrick will begin a short stint of double duty, where she will run four Cup races in six weeks while keeping her full-time Nationwide schedule.
“I didn’t know that statistic,” she said. “It’s a low pressure situation. (It’s about) getting time and experience. It is a lot of sweating, a lot.”
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.