Danica Patrick finishes 7th for new career-best Sprint Cup result

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After making the final round of qualifying for tonight’s 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway, it was clear that Danica Patrick had a fast car.

The question was whether or not she could keep it toward the lead pack.

But Patrick was able to turn in a strong performance, rising as high as third during the middle stages of the race before coming home seventh for her new career-best result in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The all-time best Sprint Cup result for a female driver still belongs to Sara Christian, who finished fifth in a 1949 race at Heidelberg Raceway in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

But Patrick was able to better her own previous best finish of eighth in the 2013 Daytona 500.

“It was really just staying up in that lead group,” Patrick said of her strategy for tonight’s race. “You’re gonna move up, you’re gonna move down but generally [I had to] average out to where I was starting, and I feel like we did all of that.

“What can I say? I’m really proud of the team for building cars like these. This was a new car and it was so good. I think it shows when the runs were long and I would keep coming, that just shows this was a good car.”

Patrick has had a relatively rough transition to the top tier of stock car racing, and up to now, she has only really been considered as a legitimate threat on restrictor-plate circuits.

But pulling off a Top-10 on an intermediate track will surely be a major boost in confidence for the former IndyCar star.

“I know that we haven’t had the best of times, but it’s days like today that we work hard for…When we do this enough, this is the kind of stuff that materializes into wins,” she said. “We just gotta keep hanging around and doing what we’re doing.”

Also playing a role in her solid outing was Kevin Harvick, one of her three veteran teammates at SHR, who told her to just not worry about the car turning bad on her.

“As she went through the weekend, she kept her track position on the restarts, which was probably the biggest thing,” Harvick said afterwards. “But I guess the one thing I did tell was to just quit thinking about it and smash the gas.

“Your car’s never gonna be perfect and you just have to take what it will give you. Expect that when you pit, every time it’s going to be better and if it’s not, you adjust and move on.”

Considering her outing this evening, it appears that Patrick took Harvick’s advice to heart.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.