On the surface, Danica Patrick had a fairly nondescript 21st-place finish in this past Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International.
Patrick potentially would have finished higher had she not been caught up in a late-race wreck on Lap 83 of the 90-lap race.
Even with her mid-pack finish, Patrick still came away from the race with a pleasant surprise.
Thanks to a strategy call by crew chief Billy Scott that put her at the front of the pack, Patrick led 11 laps (Laps 34 to 45), breaking the previous NASCAR record of seven laps led in a race by a female driver that she set at Talladega in 2014.
That latter mark surpassed the previous single-race record of five laps led by a female set by Janet Guthrie in the 1977 season finale at the now-defunct Ontario Motor Speedway.
Patrick has now led a career-high 21 laps in the first 22 races of 2016 – breaking her own NASCAR single-season record for laps led by a female driver (15) set in 2014. And with 14 races remaining, she has a chance to add to that amount.
“The race didn’t go as well as we’d hoped, but we led some laps and were able to rally back at the end to get a decent finish, considering all of the damage,” Patrick said after the race.