Danica Patrick has officially survived a NASCAR race during the 2014 season.
The driver of the No. 10 car kept her machine clean on the track for the entirety of the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas. But then again, so did everyone else in the field.
Not a single pileup occurred during the third race of the season as just four caution flags were waved for debris on the track throughout the 400 miles. Patrick subsequently came away in the 21st position, narrowly missing out on her first top-20 of the season.
Though she wasn't able to crack the top 20, the finish was still good enough to place her ahead of her Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, who all had miserable days. While Kevin Harvick was running strong and led 23 laps, the Phoenix winner fell behind with a broken wheel hub and finished 41st.
With Patrick finally showing a little progress after wrecking in the first two races, here is a look at the latest news on Patrick heading into the fourth race of the season.
|2014 Sprint Cup Standings|
|Position||Driver||Car||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||133||1||3||3|
|2014 Sprint Cup Results|
|Kobalt Tools 400||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||22||21|
|The Profit on CNBC 500||Phoenix International Raceway||33||36|
|Daytona 500||Daytona International Speedway||27||40|
Danica Patrick News
Sympathy points are not earned in NASCAR. And with Patrick struggling just to keep a car on the track for the first two races—technically more than that if the Sprint Unlimited race is included—she certainly wasn't awarded any by fans or other drivers.
But after her slight improvement in Vegas, Jeff Owens of Sporting News wrote about Patrick and tagged her as one of his "Winners" of the week:
Patrick battled back from two early setbacks, raced hard and wound up best in class. Her 21st-place finish was the best among her four Stewart-Haas teammates. It also was better than she finished in more than two-thirds of the races last year. By staying out of trouble, Patrick finally showed some progress.
While Patrick might not be winning over fans on the track despite Owens' analysis, she has been doing it through social media. The 31-year-old has carved out a niche group on Twitter with more than one million followers.
One of the biggest parts of NASCAR, whether fans like it or not, is advertising. And thanks to her huge following, Patrick was able to hold a vote on the social media site to help pick the color she would wear in the car, which also helps her sponsors:
After choosing the right outfit, Patrick's team worked on getting the car just right to compete in the Kobalt Tools 400.
Unfortunately, the pre-race adjustments didn't go quite to plan for the SHR team. Patrick did survive the entire race, but she was unhappy with the car as she raced near the middle of the pack throughout the day.
NASCAR.com provides a few excerpts from the in-car audio between Patrick and crew chief Tony Gibson as she frantically screams about her machine:
Following the progress showing in Vegas, Patrick will have to prove herself once again at a track where she has never fared well.
In the small sample size at Bristol—just three races on the Sprint Cup circuit—Patrick has never finished in the top 20. With three finishes of 29th, 28th and 26th at the short track, she doesn't have a great history there.
But after a better performance in the third start of the season, her team might be getting its act together with plenty of time still left in the year to stage a comeback.
So will the No. 10 car finally get out of the doldrums of the NASCAR standings in Bristol? Likely not, but she will have a slightly better running than her previous finishes.
Predicted finish: 23rd