Broken axle spoils Danica Patrick’s day, Brickyard win hopes

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UPDATE: Danica Patrick is back on the racetrack on Lap 95, 28 laps behind the leaders, after repairs have been made to the broken axle on her car.

INDIANAPOLIS – A broken axle led to a broken heart of sorts for Danica Patrick in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Patrick, who started 14th, had high hopes for a good run at IMS, where she spent nearly a decade on the Verizon IndyCar Series open-wheel circuit before switching full-time to NASCAR.

As she told a packed press conference Saturday at IMS, Patrick said she still thought that she can make the Chase for the Sprint Cup this season if luck falls her way.

Unfortunately, Patrick now has one less chance to do so, as a mechanical failure caused her to miss nearly 30 laps before repairs could be completed, leaving her near the back of the pack of 43 drivers in Sunday’s 21st running of the Brickyard.

With just six races left to qualify for the Chase now remaining, the only way Patrick will make the expanded 16-driver playoff is to win a race between now and the final Chase qualifying race at Richmond.

Patrick appeared to be struggling with her Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet almost right from the green start. While she managed to stay within the top 20 through most of the first 60 laps, she started to have handling issues and began to fall back.

Shortly thereafter on Lap 67, the rear axle broke on Patrick’s car, according to reports by ESPN. She came into the pits for service and as she began to pull away to head back to the track, massive smoke came out from behind the right wheel well and the rear bumper.

Patrick took her car to the garage and began taking off her firesuit, an indication her day was done.

At the midway point of the race (80 of 160 laps), Patrick was scored dead last in the 43-car field.

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Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.