By: Farrah Kaye
For the first time since Danica Patrick announced she was switching from IndyCar to NASCAR, the biggest story out of Richmond this weekend was not the driver of the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet. Extreme sports rock star Travis Pastrana made his debut in the series, after putting it off for a year when he broke his ankle and foot at the X Games last year.
Patrick welcomed Pastrana to the series, saying his presence was welcomed.
“He’s an interesting guy and I think it’s very cool to have a guy like that – especially in the Nationwide Series – that draws attention to us and makes people watch,” Patrick said. “I was sort of at a distance behind him out there on the track and he looked pretty good. We’ll see how it goes in the race, everything gets a lot more chaotic once you get out there and you need to start running around other cars and looking at gauges and taking care of tires.
“I know that was overwhelming for me the first time. I think he’s doing a good job so far and I think his presence in the series is a wonderful thing.”
But Patrick was still on the radar, especially Pastrana’s. His goal all night was to “beat the girls,” alluding to Patrick and Johanna Long, the other female driver in the field.
Patrick started 16th and quickly traded paint with Turner Motorsports driver James Bueshcer. Unlike their 2010 incident, this run-in didn’t turn either one or cause a wreck. By lap 69, when the second caution fell, Patrick had already fallen back to 30th. She caught a lucky break on the third caution at lap 115, having just gone a lap down at lap 113. She received the Aaron’s Lucky Dog and got back on the lead lap.
She quickly fell back again and eventually finished two laps down in 21st.
“I had higher hopes,” Patrick said. “In the race, it was just really loose. It’s a bummer. When you don’t have great finishes, it’s just so much work. I earned my pay today but everyone did everything I asked.”
The finish doesn’t reflect her weekend. As noted, she started 16th and was ninth in practice. Patrick had higher expectations for the weekend on a track she calls one of her favorites.
“I always liked this track when we came here in IndyCar, it was always one of my favorites. But to come here in a stock car it’s probably almost even more fun,” she said. “I felt like my practice this morning was a lot stronger than when I was here the first time.”
Pastrana ended up 22nd, right behind Patrick and Long, who finished 20th.
But the real standout of the night was Ryan Blaney, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney, who was making his debut. At only 18 years old, he started eighth, was as high as third and finished seventh. He was battling with the likes of race-winner Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and the Nationwide Series veterans. No doubt he’s one to keep an eye on.
Next week the series heads to Talladega, a new track for Patrick.
“I’m excited to go, really excited to see the fans. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. You never know what’s going to happen in the end.”
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.