By: Farrah Kaye
Danica Patrick, and the rest of the Nationwide series field, had no chance against Austin Dillon at Kentucky Speedway during the Feed the Children 300.
Having made seven starts in IndyCar at Kentucky, Patrick was familiar with the track and has been improving over the last several weeks.
“I feel like we’ve been improving quite a bit over the past month or two. Elkhart was a continuation of that,” she said. “I feel like we were tight this morning so now that’s cooled off it should get freer. Hopefully, I’m comfortable and consistent.”
Patrick’s weekend was average, finishing 16th and 13th in the practices and starting 11th. She stayed in the upper teens all night and stayed out of trouble.
But Austin Dillon and his No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet quickly took over. He was lapping cars, leaving less than 10 on the lead lap. With long green flag stretches (there were only two cautions), no one could catch him.
There was one caution for a solo spin and one caution for debris. Dillon led 192 of the 200 laps (setting a record) and finished 9.852 seconds in front of Kurt Busch, who finished second in his brother’s KBM No. 54 Monster Energy machine. Only eight cars finished on the lead lap.
“What an amazing feeling to be at the front of the field and crossing the finish line at lap 200 for our team’s first NASCAR Nationwide Series win,” Dillon said. “I’m so proud of the guys. We’ve been working really hard to get to Victory Lane in my rookie season and I feel like maybe now that we have that first win under us, additional victories will come easier. I’ve always said that Kentucky Speedway was one of my favorite tracks, and now it is even more so. I think the slick racing surface really suits my driving style and my dirt track racing background.”
The win was quickly followed by controversy. Dillon’s car failed post-race inspection, with a low rear end. A similar incident on the No. 2 car of Elliott Sadler brought a fine and loss of six driver points. Dillon currently leads the championship battle by two points, so the loss could be a game changer in the battle for the Nationwide championship.
Patrick, meanwhile, finished 12th, two laps down. The finish was good enough to move her up one spot in the points to ninth.
“It was just a really frustrating to quite average night. I just never really felt like we were settled down. No matter what our handling issue was, it was just too much for the car to handle,” Patrick said of her night. “Even for the little bits of time where it was settled, I just couldn’t drive it very hard.”
On the plus side, Patrick did finish the race.
“At the end of the day, we stayed out there for all of (the laps) – 198 laps for me,” she said. “I envy (Austin’s) first win.”
The series heads to Daytona for another night race this weekend.
Farrah Kaye is a NASCAR columnist for CBS Local Sports and is a member of the NMPA. Her previous articles have appeared on SPEEDtv.com, newsweek.com and she holds a degree in Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @Farrah_Kaye.