Danica Patrick fast at Las Vegas: Will this be her week?
MAR 08, 2014 4:15p ET
Danica Patrick's fans have had precious little to cheer about so far this year with disappointing finishes at Daytona and Phoenix, but things may finally be looking up for the popular driver.
At Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, Patrick has been showing greatly improved pace in advance of Sunday's Kobalt 400, the third of 36 points races on the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.
In Thursday's marathon four-hour test session at the 1.5-mile desert track, Patrick was fifth-fastest overall and she was a respectable 13th during a 90-minute session on Friday.
Saturday morning, Patrick was sixth overall in the first practice session and, more importantly, posted the fast 10-consecutive lap average speed, ahead of Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Patrick's boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Happy Hour was a struggle initially, as Patrick's No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet fought a loose condition and she was only able to post a best lap of 181.513 miles per hour, which was 32nd in the session.
Still, the additional test time on Thursday was welcome for Patrick as her speeds have generally been good throughout the weekend
"I'm never going to complain about more track time," said Patrick, who will start Sunday's Kobalt 400 from 22nd on the grid. "It's helpful for me, it's helpful for Tony Gibson (crew chief), it's helpful for the engineers and the entire team. ... We still need to improve on qualifying and that's going to be a big focus for us. Things are just so much easier when you qualify well and it's frustrating when you don't."
Now the question is, can Patrick translate that speed into a better finish at Las Vegas than she's been able to post so far in either of the first two races of the year? She and her team will find that out tomorrow afternoon.