Danica Patrick proved many of her nay-sayers wrong with a very impressive drive to 12th position at her Martinsville debut.
Patrick, the first woman to have ever contested a Sprint Cup race at the ‘Paperclip’, had only managed to qualify the #10 Chevrolet SS in 32nd position, and an engine change demoted her down to 42nd for the start of the race.
The start of the race wasn’t much better for Patrick, who lost a lap after just 16 laps following a spin before eventually dropping a second lap to the leaders. Pit strategy prevailed for Patrick, though, as she returned to the lead lap on 286.
“I learned my lesson to make sure that you just don’t go in too hard because they’re going to be holding you tight and there’s going to be nowhere to go, nowhere to slide up, and you get into them and it’s a lot.” explained Patrick. “If you’ve got wheel in it you’re probably going to come around.”
Patrick was involved in a second incident on lap 466 when she came together with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. following contact from the #55 of Brian Vickers.
“We were lined up on the inside of (turns) 1 and 2, and Vickers hit me and hit me into Dale, and Dale got sideways and then went down the back straight and Dale was trying to put me down in the wall on the inside, and we got into 3 and he went around sideways and spun,” she continued. “I wasn’t trying to lose any friends out there, that’s for sure. It was tight, like it is, bumper to bumper, and I just got hit from behind.”
“I thought she did a good job,” added Earnhardt, Jr. “If you keep your head on straight and just drive smart, you can run well here and she did a good job. She has a knack for sort of learning these races. She don’t come in and overdo it and drive over her head earlier in the week and she just builds up and builds up and builds up and finally by the end of the races, she’s up to speed good and obviously giving her team great feedback. She’s doing a good job. I’m not surprised.”
12th for Patrick at Martinsville marked her second best result of her Sprint Cup career after her eighth place finish at Daytona in February. It was also the first time since Daytona that Patrick was the highest placed rookie.