But while her finish set a new standard for her in the Nationwide Series, she finished one lap down, meaning she has failed to complete all the laps in all but one of her 14 career starts.
The IndyCar Series star – the only female to win an IndyCar Series race – will compete in the first four Nationwide races this season before concentrating on her open-wheel career. She has 11 races remaining on her Nationwide schedule as part of a two-year NASCAR experiment with JR Motorsports.
“It was a good experience,” Patrick said following the race Saturday. “There was a lot to learn, and I did learn a lot. It was cool to finish. There definitely [were] some accidents that last year, I was more in the top-12 at that point [this year], if I was where I was last year I would have been collected.
“That just shows that I’m further up and I’m missing the accidents and that is what you want.”
Racing on the newly paved surface helped a driver such as Patrick, who still is relatively inexperienced racing stock cars. She led a lap thanks to a push by Clint Bowyer, marking the second race where she has led a lap and the first time she took the lead under green-flag conditions.
“It was cool that Clint pushed me – that was really cool,” Patrick said. “I would have loved to try to work with him, I just didn’t know what to do.”
Bowyer said Patrick was in front of him and he decided to see what would happen.
“She was running up there, why not put her in the show, you know?” Bowyer said. “I was going to push her up to the front. I did until I got hot and I had to switch.
“I was yelling at my spotter, ‘Find her spotter.’ I guess he didn’t think she needed to be doing that. … She did a good job, today.”
Considering her limited experience, Patrick figured that others weren’t ready to pair up with her.
“I’m probably not to the point where if I pull out, people are going to go, ‘All right, she’s going, I’m going,’” Patrick said. “So that takes a while to earn the trust and respect from the other drivers. That’s going to take time and it will only get better.”