Ricky Vs. Danica: Who's On Top? (Daytona Edition)
For lovebirds and NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year candidates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, Saturday night under the lights at Daytona International Speedway was a case of déjà vu all over again.
And we mean that mostly in a good way.
In Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Stenhouse matched his season's-best finish with a strong 11th-place run, equaling where he ended up at Kansas Speedway earlier this season.
Patrick was close by her main squeeze, finishing 14th. This was the first time since the season-opening Daytona 500 that both Patrick and Stenhouse finished in the top 15 in the same race.
Unfortunately for Stenhouse, his result wasn't quite as good as he first thought. The rookie driver believed he scored his first top-10 of the season, but NASCAR revised the finishing order after evaluating the tape from two last-lap crashes, putting him 11th.
"I felt really happy about that. It's good to finally get a top 10," said Stenhouse. "We've been working all year long and we've got a couple of 11ths and 12ths and it was good to break that barrier."
As for Patrick, she was impressive, running in the top 10 for much of the night. But on the last lap, she got turned from behind, triggering a big crash and preventing her from finishing better than 14th.
"Well, a green-white-checkered finish is always exciting," said Patrick. "(Dale Earnhardt) Junior and I had a good run through the middle and then up high around (Turn) 4. And I just watched the replay. It felt like I ran just along the wall but it could have been me that came down in front of the No. 38 (Dave Gilliland). It definitely wasn't what I was trying to do at all. I was just following the No. 88 (Earnhardt, Jr.). So, if that's what happened, then I definitely apologize. I lost spots doing it."
So now, it's on to New Hampshire, where our power couple will doubtless enjoy some lobstah and chowdah while sharing quality time in the motorcoach lot.
With Ricky still on top, at least until Sunday.
Scoreboard after 18 races:
Ricky - 18th in points, 0 top fives or top 10s, best finish of 11th.
Danica - 25th in points, 0 top fives, 1 top 10, best finish of 8th.
Better race finish - Ricky 14-4 over Danica.