The roller-coaster ride that is Danica Patrick's 2014 season continued in Dover with yet another finish just outside of the top 20.
Just two races removed from her career-best finish at Kansas, Patrick now has two consecutive runs where she has finished off the lead lap. Starting 28th, the No. 10 car was unable to find clean air and get up near the front, keeping Patrick well outside of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Patrick struggled through her fourth career start at the Monster Mile but still came away with her best result at the track. Despite finishing four laps down and being penalized for speeding in the pits, Patrick grabbed a 23rd-place finish and now heads to yet another track where she has never earned a top-20 result.
Her driving on the track hasn't been perfect, but she'll look to turn that around at Pocono. Here's a look at her ranking and latest news ahead of the Pocono 400.
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||419||1||6||8|
|FedEx 400||Dover International Speedway||28||23|
|Coca-Cola 600||Charlotte Motor Speedway||4||39|
|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|
The bubble has once again burst for Patrick. And, unlike a driver like Jimmie Johnson who just keeps heading to tracks he dominates, the 32-year-old hasn't had success at nearly any of the upcoming tracks.
But Patrick believes the poor finish was much of her own doing, as she referenced the penalty on Lap 322, via Steven Cole Smith of Motorsport.com:
It’d be interesting to see where we would have finished had we not had that penalty. It didn’t kill us, but it’d be interesting to see. We were pretty rough at the beginning of the race, but we got it better in the later going. Actually we’re running really good laps. We’d just lost a few laps by that point and couldn’t get them back. But we battled through and did OK. It’s our best finish here, and I think we’re getting better.
After her seventh-place result at Kansas, and a decent showing at the Sprint Showdown, she had Jeff Gluck of USA Today believing she might have a win coming soon. Since that point, Patrick has failed to finish inside the top 20 and hasn't moved up any in the points standings.
Needless to say, those expectations still look a bit premature.
But that hasn't stopped team co-owner and driver Tony Stewart from praising the sophomore racer. The three-time NASCAR champion provides his thoughts on Patrick's career thus far, per Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com:
I’m pretty proud of her. I think it’s just time. It’s like I’ve been trying to preach to everybody all along, you just have to give her time to learn it. Everybody that runs these cars – it’s all different times – there’s going to be a point where it just clicks and things start working.
... To not have any more experience than she has in these kind of cars, she’s been fighting an uphill battle all the way to begin with because she’s not had the time that everyone else has had. She just had so much attention to begin with that – she hasn’t had that time to not be in the spotlight and learn like everyone else has.
Though she's never finished inside the top 20 at the track, the No. 10 car experienced more success in her last race at the Tricky Triangle than in her previous race.
Here's a look at her career results at Pocono, courtesy of DriverAverages.com:
|Date||Start||Finish||Laps Led||Driver Rating||Status|
|June 9, 2013||30||29||0||58.1||Running|
|Aug. 4, 2013||34||35||0||52.2||Accident|
Where will Patrick finish at Pocono?
Without a finish better than 29th and a mixed record at Pocono, Patrick will need to channel some of her driving from previous runs at super speedways to find more success. Unfortunately, Pocono is much different from Daytona or Talladega and is much tougher to tame.
If she can keep a clean car on the track and qualify somewhere near the front, Patrick could very well get back on track with a top-15 finish. But with no previous success and recent struggles, her fans will need to wait a while before seeing her find the top of the pack again.
Predicted finish: 22nd
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