LOUDON, N.H. -- A NASCAR weekend that opened with much promise for the Stewart-Haas Racing team ended with two of its race cars smashed and owner/driver Tony Stewart watching someone else streak to a win that could have been his.
For those keeping tabs on racing's most popular couple, Danica Patrick was involved in a crash that also caught up fellow rookie and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Patrick's exit from the race received additional exposure because it also happened to involve Stenhouse. It's the second time this season the couple has been involved in an on-track encounter. The first - at Charlotte in May - had a bigger impact and resulted in the two discussing the particulars privately.
Patrick took responsibility for Sunday's incident, which prompted a caution on lap 238. The field was bunched tightly after a restart, and Patrick lost control of her car, sliding sideways and collecting Travis Kvapil and Stenhouse. Patrick and Kvapil parked their damaged cars; Stenhouse returned to the race after repairs.
"We all bunched up on those restarts, and I'm not sure if I misjudged the braking zone or if they stopped really quick in front of me," Patrick said. "It felt like they stopped, and I tried to stop myself from getting in the back of anyone, but I got sideways when I did that. It's so unfortunate I took people with me. I'm really sorry.
"In hindsight, you want to give all the room you can so that that kind of thing doesn't happen. There were other restarts, too, where I had gotten the rear wheels locked up trying to slow down in time because we all get so bunched up. Cars were sliding across the front of cars. But, at the end of the day, it was me who was sideways, so I'm sorry."
Stenhouse was calm as he discussed the wreck after the race.
"I haven't seen a replay of what happened," he said. "Scott (crew chief Scott Graves) said the 10 (Patrick) might have gotten into - I don't know if she got into me or the 93 (Kvapil), somebody. I thought it was the 93. It's not the first time you get crashed on accident. I've crashed people on accident, as well. It's part of it."
Numerous cars appeared to lose traction on the restarts, and there were plenty of opportunities to do so - there were 12 cautions.
"It's like the tires have a certain amount of grip, but when they go, they go," Stenhouse said. "You're just trying all you can do to keep it off the person on the outside of you and the inside of you."
Patrick finished 37th; Stenhouse 34th.
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