At a track where she had never finished in the top 20 and wrecked more times than she kept a clean car, Danica Patrick did something she's only done twice now in her career—finish inside the top 10.
With a seventh-place result, Patrick also climbed back up the points standings. After being stuck in neutral for several weeks, the No. 10 car now sits at 27th nearing the midway point in the season.
Leading six laps at Talladega and running near the front in Kansas all day has also earned Patrick respect among drivers and fans. It's hard not to garner recognition when a driver is making clean passes on Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and co-owner Tony Stewart on restarts.
The Sprint Cup circuit now heads to Charlotte for the next two weeks for the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600. Here's a look at the latest news on Patrick and her outlook for the upcoming race.
|2014 Sprint Cup Rankings|
|Pos.||Driver||Car||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||368||1||6||7|
|Danica Patrick 2014 Results|
|5-Hour Energy 400||Kansas Speedway||9||7|
|Aaron's 499||Talladega Superspeedway||7||22|
|Toyota Owners 400||Richmond International Raceway||35||34|
|Bojangles' Southern 500||Darlington Raceway||33||22|
|Duck Commander 500||Texas Motor Speedway||24||27|
|STP 500||Martinsville Speedway||10||32|
|Auto Club 400||Auto Club Speedway||27||14|
|Food City 500||Bristol Motor Speedway||36||18|
|Kobalt 400||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||22||21|
|The Profit on CNBC 500||Phoenix International Raceway||33||36|
|Daytona 500||Daytona International Speedway||27||40|
It was bound to happen at some point.
Eventually, Patrick was going to get it. Behind the wheel for well over a full season and in a stock car for nearly three years, something finally clicked.
The real secret behind Patrick's sudden surge might just be from her teammate Kevin Harvick. A two-time winner and pole-sitter this season, Harvick had some words of wisdom for her, via Nate Ryan of USA Today:
Harvick also spoke about his discussions with Patrick following Saturday's race, via Jay Pennell of Fox Sports:
There's a lot of hurdles to overcome for her to make up that experience. I feel like we can help her speed that process up by just telling her some of the things that she should expect and do. As she went through the weekend, she kept her track position on the restarts. That's probably the biggest thing.
I guess the one thing I did tell her was just to quit thinking about it and smash the gas. Sometimes your car is never going to be perfect, and you just have to take what it'll give you and expect that every time you pit it's going to be better, and if it's not you adjust and move on.
Smash the gas she did as she stuck inside the top 10 all day.
As for other drivers, getting past Patrick was no easy task on the 1.5-mile track. Jeff Gordon, the eventual winner and current points leader, praised Patrick for her strong performance, via Mark McCarter of AL.com:
"She was very impressive," Gordon said of Patrick. "It was pretty obvious she was feeling comfortable. That's a real testament to her work ethic and her talent as well as Stewart‑Haas."
But Gordon wasn't the only notable driver on the Patrick bandwagon.
One former owner for Patrick and a points champion noted the strong race for the Stewart-Haas driver:
Pretty interesting plaudits from Brad Keselowski, especially considering the two were involved in a wreck that sent him to the garage the week prior.
After a riveting finish for the GoDaddy team and SHR as a whole, Patrick still needs some help to get into the upcoming race. Without a win in the last two seasons, the No. 10 car would have to win the fan vote to qualify for the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
She currently sits as one of the top vote-getters, according to Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News, but needs one of the coveted two spots to get in. SHR's official Twitter account is working hard to get those crucial votes:
If Patrick does earn a spot in he field, she has experienced some success at the track. In the All-Star race last season, Patrick made it to the final race and finished in the top 20 her last time out in North Carolina.
Here's a look at her finishes at Charlotte Motor Speedway, courtesy of Driver Averages.
|Danica Patrick Charlotte Results|
|Date||Start||Finish||Laps Led||Driver Rating||Status|
|Oct 12, 2013||35||20||0||55.2||Running|
|May 26, 2013||24||29||0||49.1||Running|
|May 18, 2013||7||9 (out of 23)||0||78.8||Running|
|May 18, 2013||22||20 (out of 22)||0||28.2||Running|
|May 27, 2012||40||30||0||42.9||Running|
Regardless of whether or not she gets to race on Saturday night, Patrick's track record shows she might be in store for another strong run at Charlotte. If it only comes at the Coca-Cola 600, the No. 10 team will no doubt look to prove it should have been in the All-Star Race.
Coming off her second top-10 finish of her career, May just may be when Patrick begins to shine.
Predicted Finish: 10th in qualifying race; 16th in All-Star Race.
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