Patrick Having Fun

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick will start fourth in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, her best starting spot since winning the Daytona 500 pole in 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C. - Qualifying is becoming fun for Danica Patrick.

After often saying how much she hated it, Patrick has put together her best qualifying stretch in her career, earning the fourth starting spot for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. It’s Patrick’s best start at a non-restrictor-plate track.

Patrick admits she’s had to tell herself to quit badmouthing qualifying because “nothing good is going to happen when you think bad things.’’

Her reward is her third consecutive top-10 starting spot for a points race.

Patrick was the fastest in the second round of qualifying Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway but fell short of the pole in the final round and will start behind Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne.

“It just feels so good to have a good qualifying (run),’’ Patrick said. “I have to say that I’m a little disappointed, though, after being (fastest) in the second group. I got really tight in (Turns) 3 and 4 on my lap. I guess I’m maybe more surprised I was fourth.’’

Patrick said she would have liked to have won a pole to also have earned a spot in the Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona International Speedway next February.

Patrick’s performance came on a night when some drivers complained about the changing conditions and how they struggled with their car.

“I think one of the things that happens when your team gives you a really good racecar is you don’t notice the track being off as much,’’ she said. “It never feels super low grip. Even in the heat of the day today, I told the guys I really honestly don’t feel like the grip level is all that much different than when we were here last weekend for the All-Star weekend and it was far, far cooler. That’s a product of good racecars.’’

The track will be closed Friday. Cup cars are back on track Saturday for two practice sessions. So what does she focus on then?

“I’m going to really put some emphasis on longer runs and moving around and feeling what it does all over the place,’’ Patrick said. “It will probably be smart of us to scan some changes that we might do in the race just to anticipate where the car is going to go when we make them. Two weeks ago at Kansas, half a trackbar up or down from where we started, neither were good. It’s that finicky.’’

               

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