The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series unofficially welcomed the 2017 NASCAR season on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway with the 39th annual Advance Auto Parts Clash. The event originally scheduled for Saturday evening was moved to Sunday afternoon because of persistent on and off showers.
Danica Patrick left the race feeling good about the upcoming Daytona 500 with her fourth-place finish in the exhibition race. Patrick started 12th out of 17 cars and found herself running around the top five once the second segment began.
“The way that the cars are handling in the heat of the day is good practice for the 500, more so than it would have been if we would have run at night by all means,” Patrick continued.
Patrick, entering her fifth season of racing in NASCAR’s premier series with Stewart-Hass Racing, spoke on the luck involved when it comes to restrictor plate racing at Daytona.
“I will say that I got a little lucky, but there’s a lot of that in speedway racing,” Patrick also said after the race. “It was a nice way to start things off in the TaxAct Ford today. These Fords seem pretty fast. Roush Yates (Engines) does a great job. I got dropped back in the very back for a little bit, but once they started shuffling around, I got a big run. I felt fast, but it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time and having the right help behind you, too. It got harder and harder toward the end of the race with fewer cars out there, but we were in the right place at the right time.”
Patrick qualified 24th fastest in the first round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Sunday at Daytona. The effort will put her 12th on the starting grid in the second Can-Am Duel 150 race on Thursday.
“We would have loved to have been faster, but I’m not worried,” Patrick said after qualifying. “The most important thing is that the car is good in the draft and the situations that I needed to be in as far as the ability to suck up to cars and my experience this morning with the Clash is that it was really good top-end, especially when we get drafting and really going, so I’m not really worried. We’re gonna spend a lot more time at a lot higher RPM and I think that the Fords have a lot of power there.”
Patrick holds two top 10 finishes at Daytona International Speedway. The Illinois driver made history in 2013 by becoming the first female to start on the pole for the Daytona 500. She led the field for five circuits and finished eighth in the “Great American Race” that year.
This year will mark Stewart-Haas Racing’s first season under the Ford Racing banner. Clint Bowyer, a teammate of Patrick, was the highest Stewart-Haas Racing qualifier. Bowyer sat seventh on the leaderboard in round one and posted the fourth fastest lap in round two. The Kansas native will start second on Thursday in the second Duel race.