Patrick Fights Back at Martinsville
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on April 7, 2013 | 6:50 P.M. EST
Patrick raced to a 12th-place finish in her first start at Martinsville. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Danica Patrick’s first visit to Martinsville Speedway was an eventful day that ended with a 12th-place finish.
Patrick started Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 from the rear of the field after an engine change. Her afternoon got off to a rocky start when she spun on lap 17 and went a lap down. She would then go another lap down but was able to get back on the lead lap with two wave-arounds - the second one coming on lap 286. From there, Patrick was able to make her way toward the front and ended up taking home an impressive finish in her Martinsville debut.
"We went down real early with that spin and were two laps down at one point," Patrick said. "One of the things I’m most proud of is coming back from two laps down to being on the lead lap and then grabbing a 12th-place finish at the end.
"It was traditional passing here, setting it up and getting your nose in there ... more of a road-course style, so that might have had some effect because I've done so much of that. I got a lot of advice on keeping my head cool and just letting things go."
Like most in Sunday’s field, Patrick was involved in a few skirmishes throughout the 500-lap grind.
"The bumping and banging sure gets going," Patrick said. "I tried to guard the inside right there at the end and (Brian) Vickers gave me a bump. I get it. I was trying to defend and hold my position."
At the end of the day, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver credited her car and team for helping her score the second-best finish of her 16-race Cup Series career.
"We were steady all weekend and kept improving," she said. "We ended up getting really good power down about halfway through the race and no matter what I did, I could get on it really well coming off the corner.
"I learned pretty early (in the race) to back up my corner, go easy and save everything. I was getting really loose so once I finally got back to going in hard again and loading the front, it seemed like the car got balanced."
At one point, Patrick was locked in a battle with her boss - Tony Stewart - racing for position. She not only held her own, Patrick was able to pass Stewart and drive away once she moved around the team co-owner’s car.
"We were racing for position so it didn't cross my mind to let him in," she said. "I went underneath him to go by him. All that crossed my mind is that I'd be fair, give him room and run hard; and if I get the spot, great. If I didn't, you lost it to Tony Stewart. But I'm out there to race and I don't think Tony would want me to lift."
So after a rough few weeks following her stellar Daytona effort, Patrick was pleased to come out of what figured to be one of her toughest challenges this season with a solid performance.
"You have good days and you have bad days, and we've definitely had our share of bad days the last few weeks," she said. "It was nice to have a decent one."