Danica Patrick drove a smooth, clean race and finished a respectable 13th in the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), scored her third top-15 finish of 2013. She finished eighth in February in the season-opening Daytona 500 and 12th in April at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
“I think we caught some breaks out there,” Patrick said. “Yellows definitely helped us be able to get track position as far as closing up the gaps and being able to pit a few times. We tried to take right side (tires) and get track position early on. It just didn’t go well, and we just hadn’t gotten ourselves to a good place with the car that I could carry the speed that I needed to run with the (pack). It didn’t work out so well.
“We worked on it and got it better. At the end of the race, the last run was the best run I felt as far as the balance of the car, which I was surprised because we had fallen off a little bit at the end of the run before. We had only taken right-side tires again for a second time. It’s nice to just get a decent finish for the team and for GoDaddy. It’s been rough going since Martinsville. This will hopefully get everyone’s head up a little bit, and we will go on. I think we have been strong lately. We just needed to have days like today where we finished it off.”
Crew chief Tony Gibson was pleased with Patrick’s first Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan.
“We had a really good car all day,” Gibson said. “She did a really nice job. We were a little loose to start, but once we got that fixed, we were definitely a top-15, top-20 car. We tried to stay on the same track position as all the other leaders and make sure we didn’t get ourselves in a bad position. And then we let her do the rest. It was a good day for us. She drove hard. Johnny (Klausmeier, race engineer) and all the guys did a great job with the fuel. It all worked out. It was good team work today. I’m proud of Danica and everybody on the GoDaddy Chevy. It’s a good weekend to build on to head to Sonoma.”
Patrick’s teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, finished fifth to score his 12th top-five in 29 career Sprint Cup starts at the 2-mile oval. It was also his third top-five this season.
The third member of SHR, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet for SHR, finished 18th.
Greg Biffle won the Quicken Loans 400 to score his 19th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his fourth at Michigan.
Kevin Harvick finished 2.989 seconds behind Biffle in the runner-up spot, while Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Jeff Burton comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 38 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With round 15 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He moved up three spots to 10th and has 417 points, 121 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and two points ahead of 11th-place Paul Menard. Newman maintained his 18th-place standing and has 389 points, 149 out of first and 28 behind Stewart. Patrick picked up one spot to 27th-place in the standings and has 277 points, 261 behind Johnson and 140 away from Stewart.
Eleven races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished three spots ahead of Stenhouse, who placed 16th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Toyota/Save Mart 350k on Sunday, June 23 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT, with live coverage of the road-course event provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 2 p.m.