Danica Patrick finds top-15 finish at Fontana

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Patrick overcame a flat left front tire late in the race and survived a treacherous green-white-checkered restart to score her first top-15 of the 2014 season.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), earned a hard-fought 14th-place finish – her best finish of the season – in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Patrick overcame a flat left front tire late in the race and survived a treacherous green-white-checkered restart to score her first top-15 of the 2014 season.

Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: James Holland

“It seems like some of our most trying weekends end up with our better results, so we’ll take it and we’ll know that there is so much more potential for those weekends where we feel like we are running a lot better,” Patrick said. “It was a steady race. My hope was that our GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet was close on the first run, so I knew we could make it better. It is always so difficult when you start off in the beginning, and it really wasn’t too bad to start off with today. I think that’s usually the common denominator in us having a good race is just that first run – the car being there.

“It was, so we just made little adjustments here and there, and I don’t think we were extremely fast, but we were fast enough to pick them off and move up and have a steady day. That is what we did. It’s nice when you get fortunate and lucky and your best running position on track happens to be the last lap, so I will take it.”

Patrick, who started 27th, battled a tight-handling racecar early in the race, but by halfway she had settled into a spot in the top-20. However, trouble struck for Patrick at lap 139 when she was forced to pit for a flat left front tire, which she believes may have been caused when her car ran over debris.

The setback forced her to give up her spot in the top-20 and bring the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet to pit road for four fresh tires. The unscheduled stop put her one lap down to the leaders, but when the caution flag waved two laps later at lap 141, Patrick took the wave-around and got back on the lead lap in 32nd-place.

From there she and the GoDaddy/Get Found team began picking off cars, and she found herself back inside the top-20 when the final caution of the day came out on lap 198.

Crew chief Tony Gibson brought Patrick down pit road for four fresh tires and an air pressure adjustment on lap 199, and Patrick restarted 18th for the two-lap green-white-checkered finish. She got a solid jump on the restart and was able to pick up four more spots before the checkered flag waved to come home a respectable 14th.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent by finishing third to score his first top-five of the 2014 season. The strong showing came at the home track for Haas Automation, as the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world is located just 100 miles west of Auto Club Speedway in Oxnard, Calif.

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, started 10th and finished fifth to give the three-time Sprint Cup champion back-to-back top-five results, as Stewart finished fourth last week at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for SHR, started fourth and finished two laps down in 36th after two flat tires forced him to make unscheduled pit stops.

Kyle Busch won the Auto Club 400 for the second straight time to score his 29th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Fontana.

Kyle Larson finished .214 of a second behind Kyle Busch in the runner-up spot, while Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were nine caution periods for 42 laps, with two drivers failing to finish the 206-lap race, which was extended six laps by the green-white-checkered finish.

With round five of 36 complete, Stewart leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 17th with 127 points, 59 behind new series leader Carl Edwards. Kurt Busch is 24th with 99 points, 87 out of first. Harvick is 25th with 97 points, 89 out of first. Patrick is 27th with 92 points, 94 out of first.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the STP 500 on Sunday, March 30 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 12:30 p.m.

SHR

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Race reports
Tags danica patrick, fontana, nascar-cup