Danica Patrick claimed her best NASCAR result by finishing 14th, although a lap down, in the Nationwide Series' season-opening event at Daytona.
The IndyCar star saw the green flag wave from fourth place on the grid after holding on to provisional pole for a while during Friday's qualifying. Her JR Motorsports Chevrolet seemed to be good enough car to race at the front of the field, which she eventually did at one point.
From the second row of the grid Patrick initially dropped down the order as she was left without a drafting partner, getting dragged all the way to 25th place at the end of the fourth lap. However she was able to work her way up the field, getting some momentum going to get back quickly inside the top 10 again.
She eventually grabbed the lead of the race on lap 30 while working in tandem with the Kevin Harvick Inc Chevrolet of Clint Bowyer, which pushed her all the way to front before the Sprint Cup regular needed to switch the order of their tandem in order to bring water temperatures down.
A miscommunication with Patrick and her lack of experience with the technique led to both losing momentum and getting dragged back into the pack, as a couple of tandems continuously pulled away up in front. Patrick eventually went a lap down, which she was unable to recover in the end.
"She was fast enough to be up there," said Bowyer about his laps drafting with Patrick. "You look for fast cars and I'm telling you when you're out there racing in that kind of atmosphere you've got to find a fast race car and meet up with it. She had a fast car and we'd go to the front.
"Once I did get to her bumper she did fine. Just when we switched, we ran into a little bit of a communication problem."
Patrick's 14th place finish just matches her goal of finishing in the top 15 in as many races as she can this year, although she admitted she still has to master the new drafting technique that has prevailed this month at Daytona.
"I just needed to stay in touch with that lead pack," Patrick told her team on the radio. "I need to learn how to push better, is what everything comes down to."
Patrick, who became the first woman to lead a NASCAR race at Daytona, will be back in the Nationwide Series next week at Phoenix.
The Daytona race was won by Tony Stewart.