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.