The first and only laps Danica Patrick had experienced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway before this weekend was as a passenger in a rental car driven by her boss Dale Earnhardt Jr. late Thursday evening.
In Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide series New England 200, it showed.
Returning to stock car racing after three-months in the IZOD IndyCar series, Patrick qualified 25th in the
No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, but just seven laps into Saturday’s race she was pushed up the track and into the wall by 68-year-old Morgan Shepherd in the No. 89 Chevrolet.
It put her a lap down, a position from which Patrick could not recover.
Patrick finished the race 30th, five laps behind winner Kyle Busch.
“It was definitely a long day. It’s always tough when you have to start from behind like that,” Patrick, who gave Shepherd a shove at the end of the race to show her displeasure, said. “It was a bummer to get lapped that many times but it was a learning process.”
And her JRM team said that she accomplished what it wanted: Lots of track time and bringing a car home relatively unscathed.
“There’s a lot for me to learn, like how to adjust when the car does push like it was (Saturday),” Patrick said. “Finally by the end of the race I had a handle on a few things that were giving me problems.”
Meanwhile, Busch claimed his sixth Nationwide win of the 2010 season, his 36th overall and added to his laps led total of 8,117 eclipsing Mark Martin’s record for the Nationwide series.
Busch said he has his eyes set on Martin’s record win total of 48.
“To beat someone of Mark’s stature makes (the record) even more special,” he said.
Nationwide Series points-leader Brad Keselowski finished second in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge with Carl Edwards, who won last weekend at Road America, third in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Joey Logano, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five.