Still climbing: Danica grabs best non-restrictor plate starting spot
Things have certainly been looking up for Danica Patrick and her Tony Gibson-led Stewart-Haas Racing crew over the past few weeks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Danica Patrick will start fourth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images North America
By Jay Pennell
Things have certainly been looking up for Danica Patrick and her Tony Gibson-led crew over the past few weeks.
The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet led laps at Talladega Superspeedway, scored a career-best seventh-place finish at Kansas Speedway, and on Thursday night recorded her highest ever non-restrictor plate qualifying result.
Patrick ended the first of three qualifying sessions in the sixth spot, was top of the charts to end the second session with a lap of 194.595 mph, and was fourth fastest in the decisive final session.
"The car was really good," Patrick said. "I think the big difference that came for me was in the second round. (Tony) Gibson made really good adjustments and anticipated the offset from Run One to Run Two really well and the balance was really good."
The fourth-place starting spot is the best Patrick has qualified for a Sprint Cup Series race not held at a restrictor-plate track. Patrick made history in 2013 when she won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500, becoming the first woman in NASCAR history to accomplish the feat.
"We have a lot to be proud of," she said. "I mean, let's face it: This is the part of the weekend that I dreaded every time. I had to train myself to not say I hate qualifying. ... A lot to be proud of at Stewart-Haas and for the GoDaddy car, and it's going to give us a great starting spot for Sunday."