Danica Patrick Finishes 31st In NASCAR Darlington Race, Calls It 'Good Night'

Danica Patrick's second career Sprint Cup Series start was as uneventful as she hoped it would be, and the driver accomplished what she set out to do – stay out of trouble and finish Saturday night's NASCAR race at Darlington Raceway with her car in one piece.

"I know I didn't have a great result," Patrick said. "But I accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish. Things went good on the Nationwide side. Here on the Cup side, my goals were to be respectable out there. I think I held my own alright. And the other one was to finish, and both of those things happened.

"So, overall, good night. I will be much less worried coming back to this place."

In what was her first Cup start on the track nicknamed "Too Tough to Tame" – a track that is widely regarded as one of the toughest in all of NASCAR – Patrick didn't embarrass herself even though she wasn't terribly competitive, as she finished 31st, six laps behind the leaders.

"This is a step in the right direction," Patrick said. "I can finally thank Tony (Stewart) for putting this one of the schedule. Last night's race helped me for tonight. It was great running out there with those guys.

"I was just most disappointed that the two times I hit the fence and got the stripes on my car, Jeff Gordon was right behind me. I'm like 'Really? I look stupid now in front of Jeff Gordon.'"

It was a performance that made her car owner, Tony Stewart, "ecstatic" with how the night turned out for his much-publicized driver.

"This is a long weekend," said Stewart, who finished the night in third place. "What she did in these two days is hard to do. ... This is a hard place to learn.

"First time I came here, about the fourth time I crashed, I finally was glad they couldn't fix it because I'd had enough for the night. I'm pretty proud as a car owner of what she did both nights."

Patrick's next Sprint Cup start will be in two weeks in NASCAR's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"It's really good to do a nice long race at a challenging track where it is about car control and feeling things out because the Coke 600 is going to be a big weekend," Patrick said. "Double duty again on obviously a real high-profile weekend. It will be nice to have gotten one like this out of the way. Then we just tack on another 100 miles and we are there."

Like Darlington, success at Charlotte won't be measured on where Patrick finishes. Instead it's about making small, incremental steps towards being a competent and hopefully one day, winning stock car driver.

For now though, Patrick will have to take solace in having nights like the one she just had.

"Yes, I think that is a solid word," Patrick said when asked if it was a "successful" weekend. "Things went generally well all weekend. That first Cup practice was a little dismal, but we didn't do any qualifying runs either. I think that overall, I and we as teams accomplished all the things we wanted to."

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