Patrick Makes Talladega History


Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead at Talladega Superspeedway, showing the way for six laps in Sunday's Aaron's 499 before finishing 22nd. (Photo: Getty Images)


Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead at Talladega Superspeedway in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.

She paced the field for six laps around the 2.66-mile oval and although she was shuffled back in the pack to finish 22nd, Patrick set a record as the highest-finishing female at Talladega.  Janet Guthrie had held the previous mark when she came home 29th in 1978.

"It was good out front.  I wish I could have stayed there," said Patrick, who has now led 13 laps in her Sprint Cup career including seven at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick was involved in an early-race incident Sunday when she made contact with Brad Keselowski, a controversial moment that sent the 2012 champion into a wild spin on the track apron.

Keselowski, who would later trigger a multi-car crash racing through Turn 4, explained the situation he encountered with Patrick.

"We took the lead and made a really aggressive move to take the lead, then it all kind of bottlenecked from there," said Keselowski.  "I don’t know if I cut somebody off or got run over, but just enough to get spun out and tear the car up."

Jeff Gordon, who was running third at the time of the accident, gave his perspective of what happened.

"Danica made a mistake," said Gordon. "I don't think that was an aggressive move.  I think it was just a mistake that got (Keselowski) turned."

But Patrick was able to motor on and although she felt her Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was fast, she wasn’t able to make her way to the front when it counted.

“I was in the second lane, the second car back real early on, and it felt like that line died a little bit," Patrick explained.  "Then I started getting passed so I dropped back to get some clean air.  I got some track position a couple times, but heating was definitely an issue.  It limited me to the bottom lane because as soon as I jumped up, so did my water pressure."

Patrick was forced to settle for a finish outside the top 20 for the eighth time in 10 races this season.  She heads into Saturday night's 5-hour ENERGY 400 at Kansas Speedway 29th in the Sprint Cup Series standings.  Although she’s still searching for her first top-10 finish of the year, Patrick remains positive about her team and the effort put forth at Talladega.

"It was good to lead some laps because it had been a while and we missed a lot of accidents," said Patrick.  "The good news is that this car is going to Daytona (for the July race).  The result was not necessarily a positive, but it’s going to get rolled up on the truck and that is more than a lot of people can say coming from a speedway like this."

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