Danica Patrick entices sponsor to return for Texas race after solid Martinsville showing

14 Comments

CONCORD, N.C. – Despite being a marketing phenom whose myriad endorsement deals easily will outlast her racing career, Danica Patrick likes reminding people that success can drive her sponsorship portfolio, too.

She will be sporting a colorful and prominent reminder this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Patrick revealed that TaxAct had bought the hood of her No. 10 Chevrolet after sponsoring her in the March 29 race at Martinsville Speedway, where she finished a season-best seventh.

“It was definitely a last-second thing that they were really happy about from Martinsville,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said Tuesday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where she helped announce ZZ Top’s May 24 prerace concert for the Coca-Cola 600. “I’ve always said when I do well, things happen. That’s an example of that. If I never, ever had good weekends, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“Of course, I’d like to have them more than I do, but when I do, it’s a good perk with everything from media to the sponsors.”

Patrick is off to her best start in Sprint Cup this season, which marks a critical juncture. It’s a contract year for her and primary sponsor GoDaddy, which recently went public April 1 with Patrick helping ring in the occasion on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

“They had me doing a lot of crazy things on the floor like a conga line, pushups, ringing my own bell, riding the bull outside,” she said. “We had some fun with it. I was grateful they wanted me to be a part of it. We’ve grown up together as brands go. From the very beginning we’ve evolved a lot.”

GoDaddy has gone through major managerial changes over the past three years, including a new CEO and a shift in business strategy. The website hosting company also has been re-evaluating its NASCAR sponsorship and begun selling off some of its races (in addition to TaxAct backing Patrick at Martinsville; Aspen Dental also had the car last month at Auto Club Speedway and in September at Chicagoland Speedway).

If Patrick continues to produce results this year, it should quell concerns about future funding. She is ranked 15th in the points standings after her fifth top 10 in NASCAR’s premier series. Though her best finish is 16th (Atlanta Motor Speedway) in the other five races, she said the results aren’t indicative of speed.

“I’m surprised with how strong we’ve started out,” she said. “While we don’t have a lot of great results to show for how well we’ve done, there have been quite a few races we would have done much better. I’m well pleased with our program, and it makes me really excited to see what’s to come.”

Patrick, who was relaxed during a 20-minute group interview Tuesday after an off weekend (“I’ve had an extra five to six days of people saying, ‘Good job,’ from last weekend.”) credits the improvement mostly to being better prepared. In her first three races with crew chief Daniel Knost at the end of last season, she struggled throughout the first practice.

Knost, who worked with Patrick as the engineer for crew chief Greg Zipadelli during her initial 10-race foray into Cup in 2012, has given Patrick a better starting point in practice this year.

“It’s been an easy transition because I knew him,” she said. “I already liked him (and) trusted him. He’s been very honest with me even back in those days, so I think it was very easy from the get-go.”

It’s been much more difficult for boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is ranked 28th with new crew chief Nick Sandler.

“Every team goes through ebbs and flows of good and bad, (and) you’ve got to figure them out,” she said. “I know his team is working on it. I just reassure him you never forget how to drive, you just have to get the stuff underneath you that you need.

“I think Stewart-Haas is an example of what happens when you get better people and equipment underneath you. In a couple of years, we couldn’t hit our you know what with both hands. Now we’re the champions as a team (with Kevin Harvick). It takes hard work. Even when you’re not doing well, you’re working hard. I’ve experienced that plenty of times in my career. It just means you haven’t found it yet. I’m sure they will.”

Patrick said Stenhouse had been “in about as good a spirits as possible” and noted he had a good Speedweeks until he placed 29th in the Daytona 500.

Patrick, meanwhile, nearly missed the Daytona 500 before a dramatic rally in a qualifying race. She said that changed how she and Stenhouse dealt with disappointment together.

“From that point on, I said, ‘We’re going to celebrate the good days,’” she said. “Because I feel that’s the only complaint I have is we don’t usually have good days at the same time. So instead of celebrating one of us, it’s step back and let the other person have their bed day.

“But I’m going to flip it this year, and if I have a bad day, and he has a good day, we’re going to celebrate because the year gets way too long when you’re just down all the time. I think he’s done a good job with that. He continues to work hard. He believes in what I believe: That hard works pay off.”

Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, TV channel

Leave a comment

Four drivers will be eliminated from the Cup playoffs after Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This marks the first time the track has been in the playoffs. The Saturday Cup race at Bristol will end the first round. The 16-driver field will be cut to 12.

William Byron (3 points behind the cutline), Cole Custer (-8), Matt DiBenedetto (-25) and Ryan Blaney (-27) are the four drivers out of a playoff spot. Clint Bowyer holds the final transfer spot.

Here is all the info for the Saturday Cup race at Bristol:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines is at 7:38 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:45 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup haulers enter the garage (screening and equipment unload) at 10:30 a.m. Garage access health screening begins at 12:30 p.m. Garage opens at 12:30 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:10 p.m. Driver introductions will be at 7:15 p.m. The invocation is at 7:30 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by Joe Nichols, three-time Grammy nominee, at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 500 laps (266.5 miles) around the .533-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 125. Stage 2 ends on Lap 250

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 62 degrees and a 3% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Brad Keselowski won at Richmond. Martin Truex Jr. finished second. Joey Logano placed third for the second race in a row.

LAST POINTS RACE AT BRISTOL: Brad Keselowski won in May after Denny Hamlin lost the lead when he hit the wall. Chase Elliott ran into Joey Logano as they battled for the lead late in the event.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Cup starting lineup

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Bubble drivers brace for Bristol battle

Pit crew change for teams of Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson

Friday 5: The thin line between aggressive and dirty driving

Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney seek NASCAR history to advance

What upcoming Cup playoff races NASCAR fans can attend

Trevor Bayne says the fire remains to run more races

Cup playoff clinching scenarios to make Round of 12

Leave a comment

The first elimination race of the Cup playoffs has arrived in the form of Bristol Motor Speedway.

Tonight’s 500-lap race on the short track will determine which drivers make up the Round of 12.

Three drivers have locked themselves into the second round. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski earned their spots via race wins at Darlington and Richmond. Denny Hamlin clinched a spot via points.

More: Brad Keselowski on pole for Bristol

That leaves nine spots for 13 drivers to compete for.

If there is a new winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 10th winless driver in the standings.

Joey Logano – would clinch with 7 points: 51 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Logano has finished third in the last two playoff races (at Darlington and Richmond). Has made 23 starts at Bristol posting one pole, two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s. Logano’s average finish is 15.3.

Martin Truex Jr. – would clinch with 20 points: 38 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Earned 22nd-place finish at Darlington and second-place finish at Richmond. Has made 29 series starts at Bristol posting two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish is 20.6.

Austin Dillon – would clinch with 21 points: 36 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Dillion has a runner-up finish at Darlington and a fourth-place result last weekend at Richmond. Has 13 starts at Bristol posting one top five and three top 10s. His average finish is 17.3.

Chase Elliott – Would clinch with 30 points: 28 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Elliott finished 20th at Darlington and fifth at Richmond. Has made nine starts at Bristol and has one pole, three top fives and four top 10s. Average finish is 12.6.

Alex Bowman – would clinch with 31 points: 27 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowman placed sixth at Darlington and ninth at Richmond. Has made nine series starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 22.6.

Kyle Busch – would clinch with 40 points: Just 18 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Has seventh-place finish at Darlington and a sixth-place finish at Richmond. Has made 30 Cup starts at Bristol posting two poles and a series-leading eight wins among active drivers.

Aric Almirola – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Finished ninth at Darlington and eighth at Richmond. Has made 22 starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 25.0.

Kurt Busch – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the cutoff sport. Almirola holds the tiebreaker of best finish in the current playoff round. Busch has finished eighth at Darlington and 13th at Richmond. Has 39 Cup starts at Bristol with one pole, six wins, 12 top fives and 21 top 10s. Average finish is 14th.

Clint Bowyer – would clinch with 55 points: Three points over cutoff. Finished 10th at Darlington and Richmond. Bowyer has made 29 Cup starts at Bristol with eight top fives and 16 top 10s. Average finish is 13.6.

William Byron (-3 points from cutoff; would need help to clinch): Finished fifth at Darlington and 21st at Richmond. Five Cup starts at Bristol with one top 10. Average finish of 17.2.

Cole Custer (-8 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 12th at Darlington and 14th at Richmond. Finished 25th in lone Bristol Cup start.

Matt DiBenedetto (-25 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 21st at Darlington and 17th at Richmond. Eleven Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and one top 10. Average finish of 19.1.

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney is last on the 16 driver playoff grid heading into Bristol. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney (-27 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 24th at Darlington and 19th at Richmond. Ten Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and three other top 10s. Average finish of 20.7.

More: Blaney and DiBenedetto seek history to advance to second round

Should there be a repeat winner Saturday – Harvick or Keselowski – the following drivers would advance to the next round by being ahead of the 11th winless driver in the standings.

Joey Logano: Would clinch with 4 points

Martin Truex Jr.: Would clinch with 17 points

Austin Dillon: Would clinch with 18 points

Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 27 points

Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 28 points

Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 37 points

Aric Almirola: Would clinch with 48 points

Kurt Busch: Would clinch with 48 points

Clint Bowyer: Would clinch with 52 points

William Byron: Would clinch with 55 points

Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help

Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

1 Comment

Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.