Danica Patrick finished fourth in Saturday's Nationwide race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, becoming the highest finishing woman in any of NASCAR's top three series.
"We just had a good car, that's all I can say. That's what makes a difference in these things," said Patrick. "I know I haven't had the best results, especially in NASCAR, but we’re getting them now."
Patrick had a pretty fast car throughout the entire race and only went a lap down because of the way that green-flag pit stops had cycled. She was able to get that lap back because of a cluster of cautions in the last half of the race. (Previously, Patrick had gone laps down because of a lack of speed, not bad luck)
Did Patrick have a top-15 car throughout Saturday? Yes. Did she have a top-10 car? Possibly. A top-five car? Probably not.
That fourth-place finish is the product of fuel mileage racing, as the last 59 laps ran green. That meant that Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin, who had dominated the race up until the final laps, had to pit because they didn't come to pit road on the final caution like Patrick and others, including eventual race winner Mark Martin.
Patrick's lone IndyCar win has been marked with the fuel mileage asterisk because on that day in Japan, those same circumstances played in her favor. She topped off on the final caution flag because she was at the back of the lead lap and made it to the finish on fuel while the leaders had to pit.
This finish will be treated the same way by those who use that asterisk, but that doesn't mean it was a total mirage. Patrick was able to hang with the faster cars on the track and didn't look outmatched, something she really couldn't say last year.
Does this automatically mean she'll be a superstar on the track in NASCAR? Of course not. But just 16 races into her Nationwide career, Patrick showed Saturday that the potential for better finishes is there.