Jun 8, 2013; Long Pond, PA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick, left, chats with Juan Pablo Montoya, right, during practice for the Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway. Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - This time, Danica Patrick is going for the win.
Patrick was in third place on the last lap of February's Daytona 500, but chose to stay in line and ensure a solid finish instead of attempting a riskier move for a possible victory.
It didn't exactly work - other cars ganged up on Patrick and she was shuffled back to eighth - and the Sprint Cup Series rookie said things would be different if a similar situation came up in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
"I don't feel like I would want to just settle for the same thing," Patrick said Thursday. "Although a top-10 finish is always good to have, I think that in the long run, it will serve you better to try things. ... Every driver wants to follow someone who wants to go for the win."
Other drivers - including Stewart-Haas Racing owner/teammate Tony Stewart - told Patrick she made the right move because she had more to lose than she had to gain by trying something at the end. Patrick could have dropped all the way to 20th if her move failed, Stewart told her.
But with Patrick sitting 27th in points and with just two top-15 finishes since Daytona, chances at wins have been rare. So if Patrick has an opportunity again, she might be more aggressive instead of thinking "Let's hold onto this" for a top-five finish, she said.
"I suppose it is about being at the right place at the right time and having the right people behind you," she said. "There is luck that plays into it that way."
Given her February performance, Patrick is expected to be a contender again at one of her best tracks. Along with becoming the first woman to win a Cup pole and lead laps (five) in the 500, she also has won a pole, led 34 laps and has two top-15s in six starts in Nationwide.
Five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said she is capable of running up front again "without a doubt. ... I think these tracks suit her style. She should be very competitive."
Jeff Gluck, USA TODAY Sports