The tangled web just continues to be woven by Danica Patrick this season.
After a difficult end to her race at Pocono, in which she dropped to 37th, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver finished inside the top 10 for the fourth time this season. It wasn't an easy week for the GoDaddy racer, but she navigated her way back to the lead lap and a 17th-place result in Michigan.
Early woes for Patrick and her Chevrolet put her well behind the pack and off the lead lap. But after catching back up and shaking off gearbox issues, her driving took over and brought her back into contention for a top-15 finish.
Patrick doesn't have quite the same results at Sonoma as Michigan. After driving off the difficult course twice last season, the 32-year-old finished 29th in her only race at the track.
With the Sprint Cup circuit heading to Sonoma, here's a look at the latest news and current ranking for Patrick going into the first road-course race of the season.
|Rank||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||514||2||7||10|
|Quicken Loans 400||Michigan International Speedway||27||17|
|Pocono 400||Pocono Raceway||16||37|
|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|
In NASCAR, patience is a virtue. When things didn't go Patrick's way early, her cool demeanor shined through as she found herself back on the lead lap.
Following three straight discouraging finishes for Patrick at Charlotte, Dover and Pocono, her SHR machine finally found the top 20 yet again on Sunday. Despite the early issues, Patrick still came away happy with her performance, per USA Today:
"We were pretty good. The guys did a good job on the adjustments, and it was fun to drive. The race seemed to go by quick. We needed a little bit of track position, but it was a good day for us. Thanks to GoDaddy and everyone on my team. We continue to get better."
As difficult as the drive was for Patrick to start the race, she caught some luck on Lap 147. When the caution flag flew, Patrick was given a free pass and moved back on the lead lap.
Much of the early issues for Patrick came from gearbox problems, which were repaired throughout the duration of the race. Stewart-Haas noted the issues and the recovery by Patrick to move back up the leaderboard:
While it seems as though the NASCAR season could potentially be turning around for Patrick yet again, there might be other plans for the former IndyCar driver in the future.
A seat for Gene Haas is open in F1, and Haas apparently believes Patrick would be the perfect fit. The owner spoke about the possibility, per Formula1.com:
She surely fits the bill. She is a woman in a man’s sport - that would attract a lot of attention. She weighs about 50 kilos - which these day sounds fantastic - so indeed she’s got a lot of attributes that would be good to have.
But realistically the first driver is going to be a current F1 driver who knows the ins and outs of the sport, to help us sort out what we have to do and who can give a lot of feedback. In that mould would be driver number one. Driver number two would be American.
As for Patrick, she doesn't exactly sound too keen on the idea of shifting over to a different sport yet again.
She spoke about the potential move with Dean McNulty of the Toronto Sun:
I agree that anything is possible, but nobody has said anything to me. I am happy where I am at right now as far as racing goes. I am just starting to get the hang of Sprint Cup racing.
Out of respect for Gene, if he came to me I would certainly listen, but I am almost getting too old to start a third career.
Where will Patrick finish at Sonoma?
Any decision about a move for Patrick will almost certainly have to wait until the end of the year. For now, she will have to focus on the twists and turns of the first road course in the NASCAR season.
Her last time out at the track, Patrick made history by becoming the first woman to start in a NASCAR race at Sonoma. This time around, Patrick will be looking for a much improved result following another top-20 finish.
Here's a look at the statistics from her lone race at Sonoma last year, courtesy of DriverAverages.com:
|Date||Start||Finish||Laps Led||Driver Rating||Status|
|June 23, 2013||31||29||0||43.0||Running|
With an IndyCar history, it would seem Patrick might eventually get the hang of driving a stock car around road courses. But after posting horrid results last season, it's difficult to predict she will finish inside the top 20 again this weekend.
Maybe she'll prove everyone wrong, but steering a stock car around multiple bends and actually turning right every once in a while will prove difficult for Patrick.
Predicted Finish: 24th
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