Danica Patrick hopes to build on encouraging Phoenix finish

Danica Patrick’s weekend at Phoenix International Raceway ended a whole lot better than it began, as she posted her best finish of the still-young 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Patrick struggled in qualifying on Friday, when she was just 36th-fastest in the 39-car field for the Good Sam 500. But she managed to finish 19th in the race to earn her first top 20 of the year in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

On the day, Patrick had a lot of ground to make up, given her starting position, and she was able to do just that.

Check out the best photos from the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix

In the first 40 laps of the race, Patrick picked up 10 positions. From there on, she and crew chief Billy Scott tried to sort out handling issues, as Patrick’s car was tight in the first half of the race and loose later on.

With about 30 laps to go, Scott told Patrick to begin saving fuel in order to make it to the end of the race.  At lap 301, she went a lap down, and seven laps later the caution came out.

Under caution, Patrick pitted for tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to tighten up the car.

When the race headed to overtime, Patrick was able to pick up one spot, finishing 19th.

"We didn’t start out as good as we needed to this weekend and that hurt us in qualifying on Friday, but my racecar was good (Sunday)," Patrick said. "The guys did a good job with the changes, but we went a bit too far on the second-to-last stop.

"That hurt us on the long green-flag run, and we ended up a lap down. I hate that we didn’t finish any better than we did today, but I’m glad we were able to come back and get a solid run after starting so far back."