Danica Patrick will start from the back of field in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 as the Stewart-Haas Racing team changed the engine in her No. 10 Chevrolet after discovering an oil leak 12 laps into Saturday’s first practice.
Patrick qualified 24th, one spot ahead of team owner Tony Stewart. Crew chief Tony Gibson said the issue doesn’t appear to be one that will impact the other SHR cars or those from Hendrick Motorsports that supplies the engines.
“It could just be an odd-ball deal,” Gibson said. “We’re not really sure.”
Gibson said the move to the back is a big deal even though it’s a 600-mile race when there is plenty of time to make up ground.
“For every car you start behind it makes it that much worse on turbulence,” he said. “It’s like adding another tractor trailer in front of you on the highway.”
Gibson said Patrick had made some gains in practice even though the 31-year-old driver wasn’t happy with her run in last Saturday’s All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We went out and ran 10-12 laps and right off the bat the car was really good,” he said. “We came in to make a shock change, she went back out of the garage and we saw some oil dripping. We pulled back in, jacked up the car and couldn’t really find anything that looked wrong.
“We thought maybe it was from when we switched over from qualifying to race trim because sometimes a line gets soaked with oil or an o-ring will get nicked. We backed out of the garage and there was still oil coming out.”
Gibson said HMS engineers are stripping the engine down to further diagnose the problem.
“It’s a bummer,” he said. “It’s very difficult to pass. It’s not good, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt. We’ve got to man up and deal with it. We’ll do the best we can. It’s a long race, so we’ll see what happens.”