Danica Patrick finished 28th in the AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Patrick, who drives the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing, was making her seventh Sprint Cup Series start and her first at the fast, challenging 1-mile concrete oval.
“I was a little bit slow to start,” said Patrick, who started 38th. “The car was pretty tight to get going. That is a pattern, for sure, but it is better off that I start out a little tight and comfortable and we free it up rather than the other way around. We worked our way through it. The last run was decent. We made it better most every stop. That is a good starting place for next year when we get here, and that is the point of these races.”
It was an odd race because the first 70 laps were conducted under green, there were only five cautions for 28 laps, only six cars were on the lead lap at the end of the event, and only 11 cars completed 398 or more laps.
“It was just the way cautions fell,” said Greg Zipadelli, race strategist of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. “It’s not our typical race lately. It was more like years ago. It was an odd day, for sure.”
Zipadelli was pleased with Patrick’s progress at one of the toughest tracks on the schedule, while noting areas that need improvement as she continues her preparation for a full-time Sprint Cup Series schedule in 2013.
“I think it was a typical day for us,” Zipadelli said. “We started off a little slow and then the longer we went, we made the car better and she a better job of figuring out where to make speed when she got around guys. She picked up a lot. We just really need to work on restarts. We gave up a lot of speed there. And that just takes time. It takes a lot of drivers a long time to learn that and how to make speed on the front side of a run. And this is a tough place to do it because the leaders are coming before you know it. Clean air is worth so much. That got us behind. Starting in the back and then not taking off, you give up a lot and spot a lot of time.”
Brad Keselowski won the AAA 400 to score his ninth career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his first at Dover.
Jeff Gordon finished 1.078 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the fourth race of the 10-race Chase – is the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 on Oct. 7 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 1 p.m.
Patrick, who is running only a 10-race Sprint Cup Series schedule in 2012, will next drive in NASCAR’s top division in the Hollywood Casino 400 on Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.