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Patrick becomes top-finishing female

November 17, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Danica Patrick moved to the front of the pack at Homestead for several laps, adding to her career laps-led total (Getty Images)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Despite 10th-place showing, driver says she had hoped for more this season

With her 13th-place finish in Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300, the Nationwide Series season finale, Danica Patrick secured 10th place in the standings, the best championship showing for a female driver in one of NASCAR's top three touring series.

"It is nice to know that statistic, of course, but I always hope for more,'' said Patrick, insisting she wasn't aware of the historical significance of her effort. "We came back at the end of the year to put ourselves in top 10 in points. It would have been nice to have a couple top-fives and the points from the road races that went wrong. But everyone says that at the end of the year."

Standings

Pos.+/-DriverBehind
2.--E. Sadler-23
3.--A. Dillon-24
4.--S. Hornish Jr.-105
5.--M. Annett-169

It took 63 years for someone to better the late Sara Christian's mark of 13th place in the 1949 Strictly Stock Series points standings.

In Patrick's first full Nationwide season after a historic seven-year IndyCar career, she already has set records for female NASCAR competitors including leading the most laps in a single race (20 in the 2012 Montreal race), highest race finish (fourth at Las Vegas in 2011) and most career laps led (60). Patrick is the second woman to win a national series pole position (Daytona, 2012).

Next season, she will become the first woman to compete full-time in the Sprint Cup Series with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Patrick made international headlines by leading and nearly winning the 2005 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. In 2008, she became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race at Motegi, Japan.

But the 30-year-old always has insisted her motivation in competing is to win races. Any trailblazing she does for her gender is a bonus, not necessarily the intent.

"I had a lot to expect when I started the year off, and that's what put me in a bit of an unhappy place after the second race in Phoenix," Patrick said. "I just expected it to go better right off the bat and be a little bit easier, but it just wasn't. After race two, I just started setting more realistic goals. And sometimes you have to change them. From one year to the next, things change, cars change, teams change and you have to sort of adapt.

"You have to find little victories every weekend because it's a long season. Even if making a mistake taught me a lesson, you've got to come away with that."