All smiles: Danica Patrick records season-best finish in Fontana

Danica Patrick's trip to Auto Club Speedway wasn't spectacular, but it was good. And a good result is just what she needed. 

Jerry Markland/Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty, but Danica Patrick got her best finish of the still-young NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, where she came home 14th in the Auto Club 400.

Like many of her fellow drivers, Patrick had to deal with a flat tire, specifically a left-front that went down late in the race. Still, she motored on to an encouraging top-15 finish.

"It seems like some of our most trying weekends end up with our better results, so we’ll take it and we’ll know that there is so much more potential for those weekends where we feel like we are running a lot better," Patrick said. "It was a steady race. My hope was that our GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet was close on the first run, so I knew we could make it better."

Patrick said she liked her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet from the start of the race, which hasn’t always been the case. "It is always so difficult when you start off in the beginning, and it really wasn’t too bad to start off with today," Patrick said.

Photos: The best action from Sunday's Auto Club 400

Being close on the setup at the start of the race was an early confidence booster for Patrick.

"I think that’s usually the common denominator in us having a good race is just that first run — the car being there," said Patrick, who has moved from 39th to 27th in points on the basis of three consecutive improved finishes over the prior races. "It was, so we just made little adjustments here and there, and I don’t think we were extremely fast, but we were fast enough to pick them off and move up and have a steady day. That is what we did."

And so while Patrick’s race wasn’t spectacular, it was good. And it was the kind of building block that she hopes will lead to a much better second full season in NASCAR’s top division.

"It’s nice when you get fortunate and lucky and your best running position on track happens to be the last lap, so I will take it," Patrick said.