FORT WORTH — Danica Patrick finished 24th Sunday in the AAA Texas 500, notching her first lead-lap finish in the Sprint Cup Series.
The rookie brought the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet home as the last car on the same lap as winner Jimmie Johnson.
Patrick started in the 32nd position.
In Patrick’s eight previous starts in the series, her best finish was 25th on Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway, where she was two laps behind.
She has finished at least five laps down in her seven other starts this season.
“We were creeping along,” Patrick said after the race. “We spent most of the race tight, but there late in the race we finally got it freed up enough to start really running some good speed.”
Patrick didn’t spend the whole race on the lead lap. Johnson lapped her on the 59th circuit around Texas Motor Speedway when she was running 29th.
“She had an awesome race, and she did a great job,” new crew chief Tony Gibson said. “We did the wave-around twice and got back on the lead lap early and she stayed on the lead lap. She ran with guys that she’s never run with before.”
Fort Worth’s been good to Patrick. She has three top-15 finishes in four career Nationwide Series starts at TMS, including an eighth-place effort in the spring. That is one of only three top-10 finishes in her 31 starts this year in the junior series.
Driving Indy cars, Patrick posted five top-10s in eight starts in Denton County, including a second and a third — making TMS the only track where she has multiple podium finishes.
Kahne takes hit in Chase
Kasey Kahne, one of four drivers who entered the weekend with a realistic shot to win the championship, was running 10th with 15 laps to go when teammate Jeff Gordon made contact with the left side of his Chevrolet near the start/finish line. The incident, which also involved Greg Biffle, resulted in a flat tire for Kahne.
Kahne bounced off the wall, slowed on the backstretch and headed for pit road before the caution came out for the debris he was shedding.
Kahne had significant damage but was able to continue. He finished 25th, the only driver one lap down.
The accident was similar to one in March at Bristol, where Hendrick Motorsports teammates Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. came together and Earnhardt’s exhaust pipes cut down Gordon’s tire.
Kahne entered Sunday 29 points behind first-place Johnson. With two races to go, he’s still in fourth place but faces a 58-point deficit.
Corpus Christi crunch
Texan Bobby Labonte had an early day. He was the first of the contenders to make a green-flag pit stop on lap 36, about four laps before most of the other lead-lap cars, and his stop on lap 77 came seven laps before the leaders went in for service.
On a restart on lap 119, Labonte’s No. 47 Toyota got into the back of Trevor Bayne’s Ford. The chain-reaction accident also collected Juan Pablo Montoya.
While Bayne’s Wood Brothers team made repairs under caution and kept the No. 21 Fusion on the lead lap, Labonte and Montoya had to go to the garage. Both drivers returned to the race but were about 50 laps off the pace.
Bayne finished 22nd, Labonte was 33rd and Montoya 34th.
Jams and dents
Denton’s own Eli Young Band headlined the pre-race entertainment, which also included the TCU marching band and a skydiving team. Other recent headliners included Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Foreigner and Trace Adkins.
One member of the skydiving team misjudged their landing and came in low over the cars lined up on pit road. A weight hanging from the parachute rig slammed into the driver’s door of Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet, causing some damage that had to be repaired in the garage before the race started.
MATT CRIDER can be reached at 940-566-6906. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .