In her first race working with new crew chief Tony Gibson, Danica Patrick finished a career-best 24th in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Patrick, who drives the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing, improved upon her previous best of 25th in September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Today’s race was her ninth career Sprint Cup Series start.
“We had a really nice first weekend together,” Patrick said of working with Gibson. “It was really steady from the beginning. The GoDaddy Chevy unloaded, and it had speed right off the get-go. We just kept on improving with it. I felt like it was a nice progression of the weekend, where I actually felt like I knew I why I went faster and I knew why I went slower. In the race, we were creeping along. We spent most of the race tight, but there late in the race we finally got it freed up enough to start really running some good speed.”
Patrick was in the top-25 and on the lead lap for much of the event and was in the top-20 as the laps wound down. But she wasn’t able to maintain that position through the final two restarts and finished 24th, on the lead lap.
“Those yellows at the end, I just didn’t do a good enough job on those restarts and lost a whole bunch of spots,” Patrick said. “I always feel so defeated at the end of the race when that happens. It was a really nice first weekend with the new GoDaddy crew. Tony Gibson did such a good job. I’m really looking forward to next year.”
Crew chief Gibson was ecstatic with the effort displayed by his new driver.
“It was a great day and a great weekend for the first weekend working together,” Gibson said. “Qualifying went really well, and practice went really well. She had an awesome race, and she did a great job. We did the wave-around twice and got back on the lead lap early, and she stayed on the lead lap. She ran with guys that she’s never run with before: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. To come here and run on the lead lap and a shot at a top-20 was pretty impressive.”
Jimmie Johnson won the AAA Texas 500 to score his 60th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his second at Texas. The win marked the 700th Sprint Cup victory for Chevrolet and made Johnson only the eighth driver in Sprint Cup Series history to record 60 or more wins.
Brad Keselowski finished .808 of a second behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 49 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 335-lap race, which was extended one lap by a green-white-checkered finish.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the penultimate race of the Sprint Cup Series season – is the Advocare 500k on Nov. 11 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race begins at 3 p.m. EST, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 2 p.m.
The Advocare 500k will be Patrick’s final scheduled Sprint Cup Series start in 2012.