Danica Patrick improved on her previous form at Phoenix International Raceway by finishing 17th in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
After an eventful first race at the one-mile Arizona oval last November, Patrick had a smoother run this time around as she continues to build on her stock car experience, while pondering still a possible full-time move from IndyCar.
Although Patrick managed to finished the race two positions shy of her top-15 target, she eventually finished three laps down on winner Kyle Busch as the 200 laps saw few incidents and long green-flag periods that did not allow her to recover ground and be in contention farther up.
The JR Motorsports racer was already a lap down when the first caution flag waved after one-quarter distance, and just missed an opportunity to get the free pass back onto the lead lap, being the second car a lap down when the pace car came out for the first time.
She seemed close to being in contention for the free pass again later in the race, but was unable to get it in the end, finishing as the first car three laps down. Despite that, Patrick was happy to make progress with her car's setup, finishing the race with a clear improvement in pace.
"We were struggling in practice yesterday and [crew chief] Tony [Eury] Jr. just looked at the setup and made some changes," said Patrick. "It's nice when we make a lot of progress with the car in the race and that's just what we did.
"There was one change in the beginning that I didn't like so much and then Tony made a different change to the next one, and then more of that again and it really was good that last run. Then we got the car running alright and probably at the end Tony was saying those were like 10th- or 11th-placed cars I was running with, so that's good.
"That's always nice at the end of the day to realize that you can kind of run with those guys. It's a short oval, top-15s are great but 17th on a short oval for me right now is not too bad because I felt pretty dreadful at them last year."
After two races in 2011, Patrick currently ranks fourth among drivers scoring points in the Nationwide Series. She will run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a second time next week.