It’s been a while since we’ve seen Danica Patrick finish in the top-10, and on Sunday, a 77-race streak without top-10s came to end when Patrick ended the day in 10th. Her last top-10 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was at the 2015 Food City 500 where she finished ninth, more than two years ago.
Patrick started the AAA 400 Drive For Autism far back in the field in 31st. In the first stage, Patrick gained ground as she reported a tight-handling car, but differing pit stop strategies dropped her to 29th at the start of the second stage.
Early troubles for Patrick continued when on Lap 146, Patrick spun in turns three and four, bringing out the caution. The team decided to have Patrick pit for four tires and fuel the following lap. Patrick went a lap down to the leader on the subsequent long, green-flag run. When the caution flag waved again at Lap 193, Billy Scott, crew chief for the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion, called for Patrick to remain on track and take the wave-around to get back on the lead lap.
Patrick found herself a lap down once again but two laps after the caution came out Patrick received the free pass putting her back on the lead lap. The team made adjustments for what Patrick said was a “five out of five loose” car. Patrick would cross the finish line in 21st setting up for the final stage of the race.
Patrick started the final stage in 19th. She’d bring the No. 10 down pit road at Lap 265 for a routine four tire and fuel pit stop while repairing some damage on the left-rear quarter panel after some contact with another car during the run. At Lap 310, Patrick found herself a lap down again, but the team found luck as the caution flag waved in the midst of green-flag pit stops at Lap 329. Patrick had yet to stop, so she was scored in eighth and on the lead lap when the caution flag was displayed.
During the final run, Patrick dropped as low as 16th, but a late race caution involving David Ragan set up for a NASCAR Overtime finish where Patrick would be 15th on the restart. Despite sustaining light damage during a crash on the backstretch which would end the race, Patrick was able to bring home the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion home in 10th.
“It was a good day for us. We got a bit lucky with staying out at the right time and catching the yellow flags. It’s the stuff that hasn’t been happening for us all year, and it’s just nice to catch some breaks today. We weren’t the fastest car today, and I’m not sure we were a top-10 car, but a lot of times we have had a 10th-place car and weren’t able to get the finish we needed. I’ll take the lucky days anytime I can, because there have been plenty of times where it went the other way.”