After a frustrating start to her 2017 season, something finally went right for Danica Patrick on Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
Thanks to pit strategy and late cautions, Patrick placed 10th for her first top-10 finish in more than two years. The last time her No. 10 Ford was in the top quarter of the field was an eighth in the April 2015 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“A good day for us,” Patrick said of her fourth lead-lap finish this season. “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.”
Entering Sunday’s race, Patrick’s best result in the first 12 events was 17th at Atlanta. She’d been plagued by five DNFs, which are more than she earned in each of the previous three seasons.
“We weren’t the fastest car today, not sure we were a top-10 car,” Patrick said. “A lot of times we have been 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 has been plenty of times where it went the other way.”
Patrick started 31st, and her average running spot during the 406-lap event was 22.2. She was responsible for a caution when she spun on Lap 146. Her No. 10 Ford wasn’t damaged in the accident.
Patrick took the wavearound on Lap 197 to get back on the lead lap.
On Lap 331, Patrick and seven drivers pitted after staying out just long enough during a green flag pit sequence before Regan Smith wrecked. It was the same pit sequence in which Ty Dillon took the lead.
“We put scuffs on two or three times on pit stops,” Patrick said. “It was an issue, but we saw that all weekend, a lot of yellows. We survived and caught the right breaks when we did. I’ll take it.”
Patrick now has seven top 10s in her Cup career. Her previous best result at the Monster Mile in 10 starts was 13th in this race last year.
Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team now head to Pocono Raceway ranked 30th in the points standings.