By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
LAS VEGAS -- There's no way around it. It's been a rough week for Danica Patrick.
On Sunday at Phoenix, a blown right front tire sent her Chevrolet SS into the outside wall and then into the path of David Ragan's Ford Fusion. The impact from Ragan's car literally blew the driver's-side door off Patrick's No. 10.
Patrick took a bone-jarring hit but was unhurt, aside from some expected soreness.
On Thursday night at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, she was watching a race, not competing in it, and was hit by a rock, but that didn't keep Patrick out of harm's way.
And although she was 19th fastest in Thursday's afternoon practice session, Patrick is getting little respect from Las Vegas bookmakers, who have her at roughly even odds to finish in the top 25 on Sunday. Patrick said she would take that bet.
"Yeah, I would bet on myself -- yeah," Patrick said. "I was running there last year when I had even less of an idea what was going on and didn't have a full-time effort. It was only a partial schedule, obviously. So I would, but I think that even the best of us can have bad weekends and that they happen."
Perhaps the flying rock had more of an effect than Patrick realized -- she has never run a Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas, though she finished fourth at the 1.5-mile track in the 2011 Nationwide Series event, the best result for a woman in any of NASCAR's top three series.
Fined $25,000 for comments NASCAR considered derogatory to the sport, Denny Hamlin said Thursday night in a post on his Twitter account that he would appeal the sanctioning body's decision.
Joe Gibbs Racing issued a statement Friday indicating its support for Hamlin during the appeals process.
"We have spoken with NASCAR and will continue to keep an open dialogue with them on this matter, but we will keep those discussions between the parties involved," the JGR statement said. "We will fully support Denny in his appeal process."
Hamlin indicated Thursday that he had been fined for drawing comparisons between the new Gen-6 race car and its predecessor.
Despite protestations to the contrary, fellow driver Jeff Gordon expects Hamlin to capitulate and pay the fine sooner or later.
"We are in Vegas, so we can try to count the odds of when the apology's going to be coming (or) the 'We're all in this together to grow this sport' tweet is going to be coming," Gordon said. "Your guess is as good as mine. Listen, I think it's been an interesting story for somebody to challenge (NASCAR's) authority, and that's fine.
"But at the end of the day, I know whose sandbox I'm playing in, and I like the sandbox, and I like to play in it, and I want to have the best opportunity to have the most fun in that sandbox. And so sometimes, while you don't like it, you have to bite your tongue and just go out there and race."
With rain washing out all Sprint Cup activity on Friday -- including time trials-drivers were doubly happy for the practice time they got at Las Vegas during an extra test day on Thursday.
"That was a good move by NASCAR to give us some extra time, on top of the fact that if we did have rain or some issues, we would all have on-track activity," said five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who will start third in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 with the top 36 drivers in the field set according to 2012 owner points.
"Our car was fast. It took us a few runs to sort out things down in one and two over the bumps, but once we got that under control, then we had a lot of speed in our Chevy."