GoDaddy’s Sunday features Danica’s passes, Hinch’s humor

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GoDaddy’s pair of drivers in NASCAR and IndyCar went in opposite directions Sunday, possibly counter to expectations.

Danica Patrick drove to a respectable 12th place finish in her first Sprint Cup start at Martinsville, on the lead lap. She started from the rear of the field after an engine change. It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, as she had a spin and also contacted Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Yeah never being to Martinsville before, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said in her post-race interview to FOX Sports. “I thought it would be crazy. The bumping and banging here really gets going. (Brian) Vickers gave me a bump, I get it. It’s good to do for GoDaddy. I felt like I made a lot of passes, and I feel like I passed people all day. It was nice to have a good weekend, after some bad ones since Daytona.”

James Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, was left stranded on course early in IndyCar’s race at Barber, and thus unable to provide an encore to his victory in the season opener at St. Petersburg.

IndyCar race control reported that as Hinchcliffe’s car was missing a wheel, they didn’t want to tow the car back to cause more damage. A plan to bring the car in on the next yellow never developed, as the race went green the rest of the way after a restart.

“I wish I could have taken a nap, but these race cars are going around making all this noise. It’s really rude of them,” he joked. “We got hit on Lap 1 and when we got the call for one to go (for the green flag) the wheel came off. I was hoping they were going to let us tow back and throw a new one on because nothing else was bent. But you dig yourself in a hole, qualify back there and these things happen. It’s a weekend to forget. We just have to come back stronger and get the GoDaddy car back on the podium.”

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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