Patrick finishes on lead lap for first time

FORT WORTH, Texas – If Danica Patrick’s 2012 Sprint Cup season is all about getting seat time on tough tracks, then Sunday night’s AAA Texas 500 was a rousing success.

Patrick finished 24th and completed every lap for the first time in nine races driving the No. 10 Chevrolet.

The finish was the best for Patrick in the series this year, with her previous best a 25th at Chicagoland Speedway.

It happened with new crew chief Tony Gibson calling the shots, which wasn’t lost on Patrick.

“It was a really nice first weekend with the new GoDaddy crew,” said Patrick, who was the last car on the lead lap. “Tony Gibson did such a good job. I’m really looking forward to next year.”

Patrick was never able to run up front with the leaders and got a lap down early, but she was able to make that up because of a caution and run with the main pack for most of the race.

“It was a great day and a great weekend for the first weekend working together,” Gibson said. “Qualifying went really well, and practice went really well. She had an awesome race, and she did a great job. We did the wave-around twice and got back on the lead lap early, and she stayed on the lead lap. She ran with guys that she’s never run with before: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. To come here and run on the lead lap and a shot at a top-20 was pretty impressive.”

She was disappointed she couldn’t make up any more ground late in the race on a night she ran as high as 20th.

“We spent most of the race tight, but there late in the race we finally got it freed up enough to start really running some good speed,” Patrick said. “Those yellows at the end, I just didn’t do a good enough job on those restarts and lost a whole bunch of spots. I always feel so defeated at the end of the race when that happens.”

Patrick will complete her Sprint Cup year next weekend in Phoenix.