Even though the details of the deal between Stewart-Haas Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing to split the No. 10 car may seem confusing, the deal's objective was simple: to keep the No. 10 car in the top 35 for 2012, and subsequently the first five races of 2013 so that Danica Patrick wouldn't have to worry about qualifying for races on speed.
And after Las Vegas, that objective isn't being achieved.
Through three races, the No. 10 car is 39th in the owner points standings, 14 points out of the 35th spot, which is currently occupied by Germain Racing and Casey Mears.
Patrick, who was guaranteed into the Daytona 500 via a deal with Baldwin's other car, the No. 36, was caught up in Jimmie Johnson's Lap 2-crash in the 500. She ended up 38th. (Due to the terms of the deal, Patrick's No. 10 entry will be listed under the TBR banner, but she's in SHR equipment with Hendrick engines.)
David Reutimann, driving TBR cars with Earnhardt Childress engines, didn't fare much better at Phoenix, where he finished 36th with a blown engine. At Vegas on Sunday, Reutimann had issues again and finished 31st, six laps down.
Patrick isn't in the car again until Darlington, so the next two races are all Reutimann's to get back into the top 35. With relatively reduced car counts in the Sprint Cup Series, the dangers of not qualifying are not as severe as they once were. But it goes without saying that this is far from the ideal scenario, because as of now, the thought of Patrick having to qualify on speed in her next race isn't based on Pluto. And if that came to fruition, can you imagine the media madness?