Looking for her third consecutive top-20 finish for the first time this season, Danica Patrick fell just short at Kentucky Speedway. Despite finishing 21st, she comes into Daytona with confidence and hope that she can notch another top-10 result at the track.
Patrick started on Saturday night in 10th place and was running strong throughout the Quaker State 400, sitting in the top 15 midway through the race. But she struggled down the stretch, as she faded back to 21st and finished as the last car on the lead lap as Brad Keselowski notched his second win of the season.
That's a massive disappointment when considering how strong her car was leading up to the race, as Jeff Gluck of USA Today and Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network noted:
It wasn't a great finish, but it was still a good showing for the No. 10 machine. Heading into Daytona, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has reason for optimism after her eighth and 14th results last season at the track.
Before the Sprint Cup officially gets underway at Daytona, here's a look at the standings and latest news for Patrick heading into the Coke Zero 400.
|2014 Sprint Cup Chase Grid|
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||594||2||9||12|
|Danica Patrick 2014 Results|
|Quaker State 400||Kentucky Speedway||10||21|
|Toyota/Save Mart 350||Sonoma Raceway||11||18|
|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|
Notching yet another top 20 was clearly the goal for Patrick on Saturday night in Kentucky, but she ultimately fell behind due to a multitude of different reasons.
After taking a chance and not pitting on Lap 182, Patrick restarted seventh before quickly falling behind the pack. She ultimately was forced to pit on Lap 214 and fell a lap down, but she was once again rewarded with the "Lucky Dog" and finished on the lead lap just outside of the top 20.
Patrick spoke about her disheartening finish on Saturday night, per USA Today:
I'm disappointed. I know [crew chief Tony] Gibson is too. I'm not sure why it didn't handle well in the last run. It was just too tight. It was good in the first half, but in the second half it wasn't really good. It's disappointing to say the least, because I think we could have finished better. It's too bad for the GoDaddy team.
While she was dealt a poor finish at Kentucky, Patrick still found time to have fun.
The SHR driver was challenged before the race by Clint Bowyer to videobomb him during a pre-race interview on TNT. Much to his surprise, Patrick kept her end of the bargain and gave viewers a treat during the broadcast.
Stewart-Haas Racing's official account provides another look at the stunt:
Her fun might not have to stop as the Sprint Cup circuit heads to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400. After nailing down a top-10 finish in her first full-time run at the track during last year's Daytona 500, Patrick captured a 14th-place result in last year's race midway through the season.
Here's a look at Patrick's results at Daytona during her career:
|Danica Patrick Daytona Results|
|Date||Start||Finish||Laps Led||Driver Rating||Status|
|Feb. 27, 2012||29||38||0||34.9||Running|
|Feb. 24, 2013||1||8||5||113.4||Running|
|July 6, 2013||11||14||0||80.9||Running|
|Feb. 23, 2014||27||40||2||53.6||Accident|
She will also be racing in a fresh paint scheme at the Florida track, as the SHR account notes:
Though she hasn't climbed up the standings in the last several weeks, remaining stagnant at 28th, Patrick could overtake boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 27th this weekend. Just 17 points behind Stenhouse, Patrick could use a strong run to finally move up in the rankings.
On arguably one of her best tracks in the series, Patrick will be looking to finally break through for another top-10 result this season. With just one to her name this year at Kansas, equaling or besting her eight-place finish from 2013 might help turn around the season.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: