Danica Patrick continues to progress in her third full season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Patrick finished ninth in Sunday’s Food City 500, her second-best finish of the season.
She also became one of five drivers (the others were race-winner Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart) who each moved up four spots – the most among drivers at Bristol – in the Cup standings.
“I promise you it wasn’t easy out there,” said Patrick, who started 26th. “It was a struggle of a weekend, but by all means you take these weekends because they tell you that you have a great weekend.”
Patrick is 13th in the points – the second-highest she’s been. She was seventh in the points after her eighth in the 2013 Daytona 500.
“I didn’t think this day was ever going to end,” Patrick said of Sunday’s race. “I’m proud of everybody for keeping their heads up and staying positive and these are the things that happen when you work together as a team. Just keep at it.
“We had some luck on our side, and I really feel like that positivity feeds into getting some luck and being at the right place at the right time.
“We came out of here with a top 10. I got to tell you I did not think – I was hoping for a top 20 after our weekend. We were like 30-something in practice. Lucked out in qualifying and got 26th.”
Sunday was also Patrick’s second top-10 finish in the past three races – on short tracks, coincidentally (she was seventh at Martinsville three races ago).
* Patrick set a Cup record for most career top 10 finishes by a female driver with six (breaking a tie with Janet Guthrie).
* In her last four races, Patrick has finished 19th (Fontana), seventh (Martinsville), 16th (Texas) and ninth (Bristol).
* Patrick’s average finish this season is 17.6.
* After eight races, she is higher in the standings than Carl Edwards (15th), Ryan Newman (16th) and teammates Kurt Busch (22th) and Tony Stewart (28th).