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: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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