Late pit road miscue, penalty ruin Danica’s day at ‘Dega

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A potential Top-10 finish for Danica Patrick in yesterday’s Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway unraveled with less than 30 laps to go.

On Lap 161, Patrick attempted to visit pit road but was unable to slow down below the NASCAR-mandated speed limit and instead went through the grass to avoid colliding with the other cars.

The Sprint Cup rookie had to return to the pits again for her scheduled stop, and the situation only got worse when NASCAR tagged her with a drive-through penalty for speeding – forcing her to come back a third time.

Afterwards, Patrick explained in a Stewart-Haas Racing statement that she was trying to pit with leaders Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. but couldn’t get down the track to where she needed to be in order to pit.

“I know it’s a challenge for the spotters – you’re trying to work with other spotters on when to pit and obviously keep track of the on-track stuff,” said Patrick, who finished 33rd after the mishaps. “It’s a lot, and it’s happening fast. You have a split-second to make a decision, and we should have made another lap.

“We weren’t where we needed to be. You need to be on the bottom when you’re pitting, and we didn’t do that. We’ll discuss it and learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s disappointing, and none of us feel good about it.”

The incident was another struggle in a season that’s been full of them for Patrick, who has not scored a Top-10 finish since an eighth-place result in February’s Daytona 500.

However, the weekend wasn’t all bad as Patrick added another sponsor to her stable for 2014 in Aspen Dental. The company will serve as primary sponsor on her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet for Las Vegas (March 9) and Atlanta (Aug. 31), and also be an associate backer on the No. 10 at all other events.

MRTI: Saturday Barber Notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires completed their first races of the weekend on Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.

Indy Lights saw a pair of teammates battle for the win, while a series veteran suffered first lap trouble for the second race in a row.

In Pro Mazda, things were much more straightforward, as a title contender ran away to a dominant win from the pole.

Reports on both series are below.

Indy Lights: O’Ward Withstands Herta Challenge for Race 1 Victory

Lap 1 told the tale for Indy Lights Race 1, as Colton Herta led from the pole, but Pato O’Ward was able to sneak by on the inside entering Turn 5.

O’Ward subsequently had to withstand a race-long challenge from Herta, who kept the gap at less than one second between the two Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers – Herta races under the Andretti Steinbrenner Racing banner – for most of the 30-lap race. But, O’Ward kept Herta at bay to take the win by one-and-a-half seconds at the checkered flag.

This is also O’Ward’s second win in three races in the 2018 season.

Belardi Auto Racing’s Santi Urrutia finished third, followed by Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni, and Ryan Norman finished fifth to put three Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers in the Top 5.

Meanwhile, Belardi’s Aaron Telitz endured a second consecutive race in which he failed to complete a lap, after he was collected in a Lap 1, Turn 2 spin with Dalton Kellett. Kellett, who spun on his own, was able to continue despite the contact, but Telitz suffered damage to the right-front suspension, forcing him to retire without completing a lap for the second race in a row.

Results are below. Race 2 rolls off at 1:00 p.m. ET.

 

Pro Mazda: Thompson Roles to Dominant Race 1 Victory

Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson dominated Race 1, leading all 25 laps from the pole on his way to victory. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Race 1 for Pro Mazda was hardly ever in doubt. Polesitter Parker Thompson, who soared to pole with a track record in qualifying, led right from the drop of the green flag to lead all 25 laps on his way to winning Race 1.

Thompson had to withstand a brief challenge from RP Motorsport’s Harrison Scott on a Lap 4 restart – a caution was flown for debris on the front straightaway on Lap 2 – but Thompson immediately began gapping the field again, and the Exclusive Autosport driver won by over five seconds.

Scott came home in second, while BN Racing’s David Malukas, Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez, and Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay battled for third, with Malukas holding off Gutierrez and VeeKay to take the final spot on the podium.

Results are below. Pro Mazda Race 2 rolls off at 10:50 a.m. ET on Sunday.

 

Check back later for driver quotes.

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