By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
The past two seasons have been a struggle for Stewart Haas Racing’s Danica Patrick. The last time she scored a Top 10 finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was the Spring race at Bristol in 2015. After showing some speed in recent races, Patrick was looking to turn her luck around in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.
In the first practice, it was clear that Patrick’s No. 10 Aspen Dental team was still looking for speed after ending up 30th on the speed charts. In qualifying, she ended up a disappointing 31st. In the final two practices, Patrick moved up to 29th and 28th respectively.
The first stage of the race went by quickly for Patrick. She managed to gain 10 positions to finish Stage 1 in 21st.
Stage 2 was just as quiet as Patrick finished exactly where she started the stage, in 21st.
The final stage had some twists and turns for Patrick. With 70 laps to go, the caution waved in the middle of a round of green flag pit stops. Patrick had yet to pit and jumped up to the ninth position.
On the restart, she slipped backward, but stayed inside the Top 15. She ran there for much of the remaining laps.
With three laps to go, the caution waved as David Ragan blew a right front tire and smacked the outside wall. This put the race into overtime.
On the restart, Ty Dillon got tagged by Ryan Newman. The contact turned Dillon in front of the field. Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, and several others piled in. Somehow Patrick worked her way through the chaos and smoke and emerged in the 10th position. Since race leader Jimmie Johnson had already crossed the overtime line, NASCAR officials deemed the race official.
This is Patrick’s seventh Top 10 of her career and first of the 2017 season.
Patrick was happy with her result, but admitted that there was some luck involved,
“A good day for us. We got a bit lucky with staying out at the right time and catching the yellow flags. It’s the stuff that hasn’t been happening for us all year and it’s just nice to catch some breaks today. We weren’t the fastest car today, not sure we were a top-10 car. A lot of times we have been a 10th-place car and weren’t able to get the finish we needed. I’ll take the lucky days anytime I can because there has been plenty of times where it went the other way.”
Now Patrick will not only prepare for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono, but also to be a part of the broadcast team for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Fox.