Danica evades 'Big One' for another Daytona top-10
July 06, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
Patrick matches 2013 Daytona 500 finish of eighth in Coke Zero 400
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick was smiling and looking pretty satisfied standing in her Stewart-Haas Racing pit stall talking to her pit crew while waiting out the weather Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR decided to call the Coke Zero 400 48-laps early because of rain, but it did not dampen Patrick's spirits. Her eighth-place finish equals her best career NASCAR Sprint Cup showing here (2013 Daytona 500) and was arguably every bit as hard-earned -- even if not as headline-worthy -- as any of the seven drivers who finished ahead of her.
Patrick maneuvered her No. 10 GoDaddy/Florida Lottery Chevrolet through two massive wrecks -- one that included more than half the field -- overcame two pit road miscues and drove to the front to collect her second top-10 of the season.
"We missed more wrecks than I've ever seen here at Daytona not to be all torn up,'' Patrick's veteran crew chief Tony Gibson said moments after the race was called.
"We had some damage that looked like it was going to be bigger than it was. We got it on pit road and looked at it and it wasn't too bad. We kept beating it out and cut some stuff off and actually the car ran pretty good.
"I know she was worried about it being able to perform with damage, but she did a good job staying tucked up in there. I didn't know how good it was going to lead, but I'm pretty happy with P8 right there. Obviously I'd liked to have seen what would have happened there at the end with us and our teammate (third place finisher Kurt Busch) but I'm happy with that.
"Not being torn up that bad and a top-10 finish, I'm good."
Patrick was a bit more philosophical about the day. Although her Chevy suffered a glancing blow in the first 16-car accident on lap 20 and another in the 26-car wreck on Lap 98, her car was relatively unscathed -- especially compared to her SHR teammates Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick, who were taken out of contention in the first "big one" of the day.
In the second, larger accident, her bright green and pink Chevrolet literally emerged high on track as a spinning, flipping, smoking melee of cars erupted around her.
Ironically, she credits much of that good fortune in the accidents to her misfortune on pit road.
Gaining positions after the first accident, she had driven to sixth when she missed her pit stall while pitting on lap 85. But when Patrick returned to the track she was 30th and well behind the accident up front.
"Everything happens for a reason, so maybe that's why I had the mistake on pit lane and put ourselves in a position to not be caught in [the second wreck]," Patrick said. "We would be sitting here with a crashed car, not sitting where we are now. I believe for sure, everything happens for a reason. That was a lucky one."
"They were big (accidents) for a lot of people and they were mini for me. Other than pitting when pits are closed and having to start at the back I think we're real happy about catching yellow in the middle of the race and having a car that can run well here."
Patrick was so confident in the car she insisted she would have been fine if NASCAR had decided to restart the race instead of calling it early because of bad weather.
Gibson, however, was not surprisingly happy to head north with a top-10.
"It's feast or famine,'' Gibson said. "When it gets to this deal right here (later in the race), I guarantee you if it had gone back to green you'd have seen another wreck and most of the time you're in it.
"I'm happy with this (finish). It keeps the momentum on our side. If we can finish strong (next week) at Loudon (New Hampshire) before the break I think we'll be in good shape."