In her best drive of the season, Danica Patrick finished sixth Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway – a new career-best result for her in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Her previous best had been a seventh at Kansas this past May.
“That race felt like it was 700 miles,” Patrick told ESPN. “Sometimes when you’re running well, they feel like that because you’re just hoping it stays there and it keeps going well, you keep improving, you don’t lose it.
“And there were definitely a couple of times later in the race where we fell back. The middle of the race, the car was very good and it took a little step back. But it came back at the end and [crew chief Tony] Gibson just reset everything to where we were when we were running well.”
Patrick had been running in the lower reaches of the Top 10 for much of the night before an incident involving Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. brought out the caution with just two laps to go in the scheduled 325-lap distance.
Before the first GWC attempt, Patrick came in for pit service and moved up one spot to seventh thanks to a lightning-quick stop.
That was important, because it allowed her to go on the inside lane for GWC1; moments after the green flag, Patrick was able to dodge a crash involving Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard on the outside lane and move up to fourth.
“…There were a couple of rough [stops] in the beginning, but [the last one] made up for all of it because that put us seventh for the restart,” she said. “We had a good line on the inside and didn’t get caught up on the outside.”
Patrick couldn’t stay in the Top 5 during GWC2, but she was still very happy for herself and the team. She also hopes that she’s got some momentum heading into next weekend’s race at Richmond, where she’s finished 29th, 30th, and 34th in her Cup career.
“We’ve really had pretty fast cars for quite a while now and not really great finishes to show for it,” she said. “…I’ve sucked at Richmond every time, so I sure hope I can run well at Richmond now.”