In her first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in two years without Tony Gibson as her crew chief, Danica Patrick ended up struck by the same series of on-track setbacks that have been frustrating her ever since she moved to stock car racing full time.
To start with, she was forced to start at the rear of the field after the team changed a transmission on Saturday afternoon. Then on lap 39 as she made her way back up the order, her right-front tyre shredded and forced her to pit under green which put her two laps down and affected the car's handling for the rest of the race.
Finally on lap 250 she suffered another cut right-front tyre and brushed the wall, putting her even more laps down. She ended up finishing the race in a distant 36th, nine laps behind the leaders.
"It was a rough day,” said Patrick, who was working with new interim crew chief Daniel Knost this weekend. “We had the tyre issues, and the car just wasn't handling all that well. We've got two weeks left, and I'm ready for Phoenix next week. It's a big race with GoDaddy out there, so I'm ready to go."
Meanwhile, Gibson had been switched to the #41 car and was working with Danica's Stewart-Haas Racing team mate Kurt Busch for this first time in the AAA Texas 500. They'd got off to a good start, qualifying in fourth place and running for much of the day in the top ten, even leading for 15 laps. before settling for eight place at the line.
Busch credited Gibson - who turns 50 on Monday - for helping him overcome handling issues that left the car tight into and loose off of the corners, and also for helping bounce back some slow stops on pit road in a race dominated by cautions and tyres changes.
“It was great to have a shot at the win,” Busch said. “Tony Gibson and the engineers did a great job reading my balance, and I was trying to pick up on their changes. So, it was nice to go out there and execute.
"We just lost too many spots on pit road, and that put us behind a few times. The strategy was to stay out at the end, and we didn't need all those yellow flags."
The decision not to pit under a caution on lap 296 but rather stay out and pick up the lead saw him pick up the lead, but the stop-start nature of the final stage of the race which suffered a subsequent flurry of cautions finally meant that Busch's ageing tyres were no match compared with drivers who had subsequently come in, and he was finally forced to make one last pit stop himself on lap 320 and work his way back from 23rd into the top ten again.
"All those yellows gave everybody with fresh tires a chance to catch me,” Busch said. “We had to pit but were able to use the last yellow to our advantage. We worked our way from, I don't know, 25th to eighth.
"All in all, it was a great first day working with Tony Gibson and these guys," he added. "We are going to be good, we just have to work out the details."
Busch's SHR team mate Kevin Harvick finished second to Jimmie Johnson in a thrilling finish to the race. Team co-owner Tony Stewart also had a solid day, crossing the line in 11th place.
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