For those who don’t think Danica Patrick is improving in her third full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series, here are some numbers to consider:
* Sunday tied her second-best finish (Kansas, spring 2014) in a Sprint Cup race, one spot lower than her career-best sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway last September.
* With a seventh in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Patrick made the biggest jump of any driver in the Sprint Cup standings, from 23rd to 16th, and is tied with Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards at 115 points behind series leader and her Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick.
“I’m proud of everyone for not giving up and for keeping their head in the game, and the pit crew did a good job,” Patrick said. “They were frustrated last weekend after making a mistake on the last stop, and it’s team effort, you know.”
Admittedly, Patrick’s race Sunday was not perfect, either.
“I (made) mistakes at the very end, too,” she said. “I’m not going to lie, I was glad there was not a yellow at the very end coming to the white. I was glad for that.”
Earlier in the race, her No. 10 Chevrolet was tight.
“We just weren’t very good to start,” Patrick said. “We took a chance and stayed out on a yellow, and we were front row, and I bet I looked like an idiot out there.
“I spun the wheels on the start and hung on a little bit, but then ended up going backwards in a hurry.
“I said before the race started that we can be down here but we can still come back, and if we get there, let’s just keep digging and let’s find something.”
Patrick made a strong move late in the race when she deftly avoided being collected in a multicar wreck, swerving to the right to miss a spinning Paul Menard.
“That’s kind of the way it goes at Martinsville,” she said. “I think all four corners are banged up. … (The) 27 got sideways and he was just completely sideways in front of my car, and luckily I had slowed down enough and swerved to the right.
“It’s all a matter of luck, too. I could have got drilled from the back and hit into the car. I could have swerved to the right and had somebody clip my right rear and spun, somebody could have been out there.
“Crashes are about observing where you’re at and making a good decision about where to go, but they’re also about luck. I got lucky that there was nothing in my way to get around that one. That would have probably wrecked my day.”