Danica Patrick‘s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series education continued Sunday night as she finished 30th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
It was Patrick’s third career Sprint Cup start, and just as she did two weeks ago at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Patrick ran a clean race and was running at the finish in the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, which is fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) via a collaborative agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
There were five caution periods for 23 laps, with the race taking only three hours, 51 minutes and 14 seconds, making it the fastest Coca-Cola 600 on record.
Two weeks ago at Darlington in Patrick’s previous Sprint Cup start, there were only eight caution periods for 38 laps, meaning the last two Sprint Cup starts for Patrick have included several long, green flag runs.
The first 112 laps of tonight’s 400-lap marathon were conducted under green, and the first 172 laps at Darlington also went caution free.
“We had a lot of green-flag running and, for me as a driver in general in NASCAR, but especially as a new driver in the Cup Series, that hurts me,” Patrick said. “I’m just not great at making the best out of a car that’s not perfect, and those long runs really show that. But that’s what you get in Cup. You get a lot of green-flag running and I’ve got to learn how to deal with that. But that’s just the nature of where I’m at on the learning curve at this point in time.
“We brought the Go Daddy car home and one of the goals was to finish. I would’ve liked to have been a little faster overall, but I think there were some times in there when it was decent. It was kind of like Darlington (where) there was a certain run or two that felt really good and everything else, you’re just kind of like, ‘Let’s work on this and let’s work on that.'”
Her race strategist, Greg Zipadelli, was happy with Patrick’s continuing education.
“She did a good job tonight,” Zipadelli said. “This is a tough racetrack and a tough race. We needed to start the race tight, just to be conservative and we started the race a little too tight at the beginning. But we didn’t make any big mistakes. Obviously, we’d all like to be a couple positions further up, maybe 25th or 26th – something like that. That would be a big success when you look at all the people that were back there. It’s a tough racetrack – she did a good job.”
Kasey Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 13th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his fourth at Charlotte.
Denny Hamlin finished 4.295 second behind Kahne in the runner-up spot, while Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.
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