Danica Patrick finished 21st on her ninth NASCAR Nationwide Series outing at Charlotte, taking her best career finish in the the series thus far.
The JR Motorsports driver had an uneventful race starting from 18th on the grid, struggling with grip and high water temperatures from the very first stint, dropping down in the order and a lap down just past the first 50 laps of the scheduled 200.
Setup changes on her first stop did not work as expected and she was unable to make progress up the order, eventually dropping a second lap down before the deciding stages of the race. A long green-flag stretch nearly halfway through did not help her cause, either, as she was in position to get back on the lead lap, had cautions fallen her way.
Despite not having enough pace to contend farther up, she completed a trouble-free run and a good final stint on her way to a best Nationwide Series career finish. Patrick feels the temperature issues in the early laps probably led to her losing pace, affecting not only power but also grip as her team had to clear the grill on the front of the car from tape in order to bring temperatures under control.
"It seems like every time we have the chance to have a great finish we crash and then every time we have a pretty average night I finish and finish in the 20s," said Patrick. "It is what it is. We were running a little hot on the first run and nearly had to pit for heat. That's not good and then we took some tape off [the front of the car] and then I guess we had too much taken off. You lose the nose weight... and the car felt like it wasn't on the ground, it didn't feel like it was stuck as well.
"We tried to work with it and a couple of changes were good in the race but nothing overcame that feel of not being gripped up out there. We did our best. We had some highs this week and that hasn't happened a lot of other times I've been to a track for the first time. We'll take the high points and take a non-crashed car home and learn from this new car this time and move on."
Friday night's race was Patrick second outing in the new Nationwide Series car, which is being used in a limited number of races this year. Her next NASCAR appearance takes place at Gateway, a 1.25-mile oval which will be another new track in her stock car apprenticeship.