By Kelly Crandall (CONCORD, N.C.) – Two weeks removed from her first top-10 finish at Kansas Speedway, @DanicaPatrick found a groove again at another 1.5-mile track.
Patrick posted the fourth best qualifying time on Thursday night ahead of Saturday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Aside from winning the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500, it was her best qualifying effort at a non-restrictor plate track, and third consecutive top-10 start this season. She started seventh and ninth, respectively, at Talladega and Kansas.
“The car was really good. I think the big difference that came for me was in the second round. (Crew chief Tony) Gibson made really good adjustments and anticipated the offset from run one to run two really well and the balance was really good,” Patrick said afterwards, in which she apologized to her team over the radio and reported she was got too tight for a pole run.
“We have a lot to be proud of. I mean let’s face it, this is the part of the weekend that I dreaded every time. I had to train myself to not say I hate qualifying. We were (sixth) in a round, we were first in a round and we were fourth in a round. A lot to be proud of at Stewart-Haas and for the GoDaddy car and it’s going to give us a great starting spot for Sunday.”
Patrick ran as high as third at Kansas before bringing home a seventh place finish. It was her best non-restrictor plate finish aided by the help of new teammate @KevinHarvick. Harvick having taken it upon himself to work with Patrick – whom he’s been close to since she arrived in the sport and whose son Keelan has a fondness for – over the last few weeks but appeared to be more aggressive ahead of Kansas.
The two-time Nationwide Series champion and winner of 25 Sprint Cup races, simply told her to mash the gas and stop thinking so much. Harvick also showed her different ways of arching the corners amongst other pieces of information. Patrick has been a sponge to all the information Harvick as well as team owner @TonyStewart, have provided.
“I think one of the things that happens when your team gives you a really good race car is you don’t notice the track being off as much,” Patrick said of the day’s conditions. “It never feels super low grip. Even in the heat of the day today I told the guys ‘I really honestly don’t feel like the grip level is all that much different than when we were here last weekend for the All-Star weekend and it was far cooler.’ That is a product of good race cars and they have a lot to be proud of at the shop.”
Patrick failed to make last weekend’s Sprint All-Star race but ran and finished top-10 after starting seventh. Last season in her first career Coca-Cola 600, she started 24th and finished 29th.
Patrick’s lap on Thursday in the second round of knockout qualifying at 194.595 mph, in which she was the fastest, is now the fastest qualifying lap recorded by a female at a 1.5-mile track.
“Anytime you can have track time at a track you are going to race at is good for learning,” Patrick said when asked if anything from last weekend carried over. “It’s good for repetition, it’s good for learning about your car, so we would have loved to have been in the All-Star weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. We are doing okay here and we’ve got another practice before the race.”
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