AVONDALE, Ariz. —
The 54-year-old became the second-oldest driver to start on the pole in a Sprint Cup car, a few months short of Harry Gant’s mark. Martin led the first 49 laps and 26 more later on, but couldn’t sustain it in his bid to become the oldest Sprint Cup winner, finishing 21st.
“Obviously, it’s a disappointing result for a great effort on the weekend,” Martin said. “The car was pretty fast, but we had multiple problems today.”
So did Danica Patrick, who had a rough follow-up to her breakthrough week at the Daytona 500.
Patrick became the first woman to win a pole and lead green-flag laps during NASCAR’s season opener, sending her popularity to a new level.
But she couldn’t stay with the leaders at Phoenix, ending her day with one of the hardest hits of her career. It happened with about 100 laps left, when the right-front tire on Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet went down and slammed her into the wall.
Patrick’s car careened back into David Ragan, flipping her hood over the windshield and shredding the left front fender as protective foam from the driver’s side door flew onto the track.
She came to a stop along the inside wall with a trail of debris covering about half the home straightaway behind her. She climbed from the car and was quickly cleared by the medical center.
“Whenever those right-fronts go, they always hit hard because you don’t broadside, you hit more straight on,” said Patrick, who finished 39th. “It took a hard hit both sides and I’m fine, so NASCAR is doing a good job at safety. But no real good warning. The car wasn’t all that tight and most of the (problems) were in the rear, so there was no real vibration that told me that was going to happen.”