Danica’s playground: Patrick shines once again at Daytona

Danica Patrick narrowly avoids being collected in Sunday's 26-car wreck during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Daytona International Speedway clearly agrees with Danica Patrick.

Despite suffering minor damage in both of the day’s big crashes and missing her pit stall once, Patrick managed to pull out an eighth-place finish in Sunday’s rain-delayed and rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at the venerable 2.5-mile track.

It was Patrick’s third career top-10 finish and second of the year, after coming home seventh at Kansas Speedway in May. And it was also the second time she’s finished eighth at Daytona, the first coming in the 2013 Daytona 500.

Had rain not cut the race short at Lap 112 of a scheduled 160-lap race, it might have been interesting to see what Patrick and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch, who finished third, could have done if they could have hooked up in the draft on the last lap. As it was, the early end saw Aric Almirola win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Still, the final result was a good one. Or as crew chief Tony Gibson said after the race, "Obviously, I would like to see what would have happened at the end with us and our teammate (Busch), but I’m happy with that. Not being torn up that bad and top 10 finish? I’m good."

Patrick was likewise pleased.

"The car was fast," Patrick said. "It has just been a matter of attrition and getting a little lucky and making it through things. We were in two crashes, and the car has been OK to keep going, which is hard to do here at Daytona because the splitter height is so critical, because if it’s a little too low you can’t go the speed you need to because it will just hit the track. We have been really fortunate from that perspective, getting a yellow in the middle when I made the mistake on pit road of missing my pit box. It’s been a crazy day. I can’t believe we finished eighth."