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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MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

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