NASCAR Bristol Notebook: Denny Hamlin, Danica Patrick Tangle In Saturday Practice

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Danica Patrick (Photo: Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Danica Patrick (Photo: Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin had had their differences in the past, but what happened in Saturday morning’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway had nothing to do with old grudges.

Nevertheless, contact between their two cars bent the sheet metal on both vehicles, Hamlin’s on the right front and Patrick’s on the left rear.

Patrick, on new tires, was struggling with the handling of her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and had difficulty holding the bottom. She had just let Clint Bowyer’s Chevrolet pass her to the inside, and as she approached Turn 1 at the .533-mile short track, Hamlin was closing fast behind her.

Patrick entered the turn low but didn’t hold the bottom, and as she drifted up off the bottom lane, Hamlin opted to try an inside pass but ran out of room. The resulting collision, though not a violent impact, was enough to do cosmetic damage to both cars.

“I had just come out on tires,” Patrick said. “They were cold and I wasn’t very good anyway – I was pretty loose. I came down the front straightaway and I put my finger out the window to point him by, but he hit me on entry. I don’t know if he… it looked like he came pretty close when he went to go to the inside, too.

“Man, I love Denny, but he makes a lot of mistakes behind me. I don’t know if he misjudged it, or I was going slower than he thought, but I put my finger out the window and pointed him by. I had no intention to race him. I was not fast enough. I don’t know, but the guys are going to try and fix it.”

From his vantage point, Hamlin couldn’t see Patrick’s signal.

“I was on the outside of her on the straightaway, so I couldn’t see the left side of her car,” Hamlin said. “I went to go low, but I don’t know if she had stuff on her tires. It looked like she was struggling and had stuff on her tires for a few laps there. I tried to go low and obviously we hung bumpers.”

Patrick’s troubles weren’t over. In Saturday’s final practice prior to Sunday’s Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX), she was still fighting a loose handling condition and brushed the wall near the apex of Turns 3 and 4 approximately five minutes into Happy Hour.

After repairs, Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota, on the other hand, was fast enough to top the speed chart during final Cup practice with a lap at 126.129 mph.


The numbers tell the story.

AJ Allmendinger finished 22nd in the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings last year. Through the first seven races this season, the driver of the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Racing Chevrolet is 15th.

Part of the improvement can be attributed to the burgeoning simpatico between Allmendinger and new crew chief Randall Burnett. But much of the credit also goes to an improved qualifying program.

Over 36 races last year, Allmendinger posted an average starting position of 21.6. With his ninth-place qualifying effort on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, this year’s average improved to 16.9.

Since Daytona, in each of the seven knockout qualifying sessions, Allmendinger has advanced at least to the second round, and on three occasions, including Friday’s time trials, he has made it to the final round, ensuring a top-12 starting spot.

At Bristol, that’s particularly important, given the speed of the track and how quickly back markers tend to get lapped.

“It’s a real big deal around here,” Allmendinger agreed. “Especially, if early in the race it can go green for a while – If it does and the leader puts down a lot of lapped cars, it kind of just ruins the rest of your race. Starting up front is a big deal.

“We’ve got to get the car a little bit more comfortable in race trim to make sure we stay up there, but anytime, especially, on these short tracks you can start up front, it just makes that first half of the race a lot easier. It’s like, if you get through the first three quarters on the lead lap, it just seems like, even if you’re only half-decent, you can still get a really good finish out of it, especially around here.”

Allmendinger was 20th fastest in Saturday’s first practice session but improved to 16th during Happy Hour.


Seeking his third straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, Kyle Busch made a statement during Saturday’s first practice at Bristol.

Not only did Busch run the fastest lap in the session (126.370 mph), covering the .533-mile distance in 15.184 seconds. He also posted the best 10-lap average speed, 125.569 mph, indicating he’ll likely be a contender for the win in Sunday’s Food City 500.

Pole winner Carl Edwards, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, was second in 10-lap average at 124.762 mph. Busch was fifth on the speed chart in Happy Hour behind Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Martin Tuex Jr. and Edwards.

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