All but lost among the Chase implications at Atlanta Motor Speedway was a milestone performance by Danica Patrick.
The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet lost a lap early but took advantage of a free pass under a Lap 116 caution for Ryan Truex’s spin off Turn 4.
From that point, Patrick made steady progress toward the front of the field. When the race restarted after caution on lap 302 of a scheduled 325, she was ninth.
When the race went to overtime, she dodged a multicar wreck moments after a restart on Lap 328 and eventually rolled home sixth. Not only was that the best finish of Patrick’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, eclipsing her seventh-place run at Kansas earlier this year, but it also matched the best finish by a female driver in NASCAR’s so-called modern era (since 1971).
Before Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500, Janet Guthrie alone held that distinction on thestrength of a sixth-place finish at Bristol in 1977. Now Patrick shares it.
Despite the stellar result at Atlanta, it would be a mistake to get your hopes too high with respect to Patrick’s winning chances on Saturday night at Richmond. Patrick will have to improve drastically at the .75-mile short track to have a shot at a checkered flag.
Patrick’s best finish in three starts at Richmond is 29th, four laps down.
Then again, before Sunday night, her best effort at Atlanta had been a 21st.
Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service