After getting caught up in a late-race incident Sunday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) are ready to return to the site of Patrick’s career-best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points-event finish: Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Patrick earned finishes of fourth and sixth in the Advance Auto Parts Clash and Can-Am Duel, respectively, and she was scored as high as second Sunday before her solid performance in the 59th running of the Daytona 500 ended prematurely due to a multicar accident that sent the No. 10 team to the garage at lap 128. With the conclusion of Daytona Speedweeks, the “regular” NASCAR Cup Series season commences with Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 at Atlanta.
When Patrick and her No. 10 team visited Atlanta in August 2014, she started 27th in the Oral-B USA 500. She rallied from a lap down twice in the early stages of the race. By the halfway point, Patrick worked her way into the top-15 and would stay there for the rest of the night. Her lap times continued to improve and, by the 300-lap mark, she was solidly in the top-10. Patrick managed to run as high as fourth before taking the checkered flag sixth. The effort beat her previous best finish – a seventh-place run at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in May 2014 – by one position.
Patrick’s sixth-place run was the best by a female at Atlanta. The previous record was Janet Guthrie’s 10th-place finish on March 19, 1978. Only a fifth-place result by Sara Christian in a NASCAR Cup Series race on Oct. 2, 1949 at Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway tops Patrick’s 2014 effort at Atlanta. Christian also finished sixth at Langhorn (Pa.) Speedway on Sept. 11, 1949, and Guthrie finished sixth at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977.
Last year, newly paired with crew chief Billy Scott, Patrick scored a 20th-place finish at Atlanta. This weekend, the pair returns to the track with a year’s worth of experience working together.
As the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford team returns to Atlanta, it is ready to improve on last year’s results and hopefully make more history with Patrick.