Danica Patrick is still a backmarker, but a faster backmarker.
With Kyle Busch’s dominant flag-to-flag run at Phoenix — the first driver to accomplish the feat since Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona on July 4, 2003 — it was not surprising that stock car novice Danica Patrick did not factor into Saturday’s Bashas' Supermarkets 200.
But in four short months, Patrick improved her performance on the one-mile flat track by 15 positions with her 17th-place finish, three laps behind the leader.
“We were struggling in practice yesterday, qualified 20th which was better than I thought it would be before I made the run,” Patrick said. “(Crew chief) Tony Eury Jr. just looked at the setup and made some changes. It’s nice when you make a lot of progress in the race with the car and that’s just what we did. We made one change at the beginning that I didn’t like so much. Then Tony made a different change for the next one and then more of that again and it was really good that last run.
“I finally got to the point where when I got off the brake it turned instead of kept pushing up the track. That was the key to the end of the race and why I was able to run faster. I wish I would have had the car at the beginning of the race that I had at the end.”
By Lap 40, Patrick was already in danger of dropping off the lead lap with the rocket ship Busch had beneath him. However, she remained focused as Eury called out lap times and spotter T.J. Majors clued her into not “overdriving the corners.”
“(Eury) was saying that those were like 10th or 11th-place cars,” Patrick said of the competition she raced at the end. “So, that’s good. It’s nice at the end of the day to know you can run with those guys. I’m happy. It’s a short oval. Top 15s are great, but 17th on a short for me is not too bad right now because I was pretty pitiful on them last year.” FOX Sports
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