Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 21st in the AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Patrick, who started 21st, drove a smooth, clean race and finished eight spots higher than she did a year ago at Atlanta.
“I’m proud of the GoDaddy guys,” said Patrick, who made her 35th Sprint Cup start and her second at Atlanta. “We weren’t good in the first practice (on Friday). Tony Gibson and the guys worked really hard, and we qualified well and then continued to get better throughout the weekend.
“It was a good race for us. It was a little tight at the end, but overall, we improved, and I think we’ve gotten better the last few races. The pit crew was really good, and they were quick on each stop. I’m happy with how we ran. Obviously, you always want to do better than you finish, but it’s like we’ve said all year, it’s about making little gains and getting better as we go along.”
Patrick’s teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS, finished fifth.
The third member of SHR, Mark Martin, interim driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 25th.
Kyle Busch won the AdvoCare 500 to score his 28th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his second at Atlanta.
Joey Logano finished .740 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot, while Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Newman rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 47 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 325-lap race around the 1.54-mile oval.
With round 25 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He moved up one spot to 14th with 699 points, 138 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 20 behind 10th-place Kurt Busch. Patrick remained 27th with 459 points, 378 behind Johnson and 260 away from Kurt Busch.
Stewart, out of the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for the remainder of the season, dropped to 23rd in the standings. He has 594 points, 243 out of first and 125 behind 10th-place Busch.
Just one race remains 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.
Kasey Kahne, who is 12th in points, has the first wild card via his two wins. Truex holds the second wild card as he is 13th in points with one victory. Newman is the only other driver between 11th and 20th with a victory.
The No. 14 car is 15th in the Sprint Cup owner standings with 696 points, 141 behind the series-leading No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports and 23 points behind the No. 78 team of Furniture Row Racing, which is 10th.
The No. 5 team of Hendrick Motorsports has the first wild-card spot via its two wins, while the No. 56 team of Michael Waltrip Racing has the second wild card as it is the highest team between 11th and 20th with one victory. The No. 39 team of SHR (14th), the No. 14 team of SHR (15th) and the No. 55 team of Michael Waltrip Racing (18th) each have one victory and are still in contention for a wild-card spot in the chase for the owner championship.
Following next week’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, the owner standings will be reset, with each team getting 2,000 points. With the exception of wild-card entrants (11th- and 12th-place teams), teams also receive three bonus points for each of their respective wins during the 26-race regular season. For teams starting the Chase with identical point totals, their seed is determined by the traditional tiebreaker of best finishes beyond race victories.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished five spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 16th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Richmond. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.