Thursday's roundup: Danica Patrick showing improvement


Charlotte, N.C. – — Danica Patrick has shown steady improvement over the last month, notching four consecutive strong finishes.

Patrick, in her second full season in the Sprint Cup Series, began her roll at Atlanta, where she finished a career-best sixth. She'd never finished higher than 21st at Atlanta.

Those results were tempered, though, by the realization she was next headed to Richmond. Patrick had never qualified or finished higher than 30th at Richmond, but she shattered those marks by qualifying 13th and finishing 16th.

She then headed to home track Chicagoland Speedway, where Patrick had never qualified or finished in the top-20. She beat that mark with a 19th-place finish.

Last week at New Hampshire, Patrick ran as high as fifth late in the race before fading to finish 19th. It was still Patrick's best career finish at New Hampshire and was her fourth consecutive top-20 result.

"Everyone just works hard and it's paying off," she said. "We actually should have finished better at New Hampshire, but the yellows at the end probably didn't help. We're just getting better."

Patrick has another challenge ahead this weekend at Dover, where her four previous starts on the concrete have been struggles. Patrick has never started higher than 28th at Dover, and her career-best finish at the track came in June when she was 23rd.

Her best Dover performance was in 2010 in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race, when Patrick led three laps and finished sixth.

"I haven't run that well at Dover, but we've done better at all the tracks we've been to lately, so we're ready," she said. "I remember everyone telling me how unique and challenging Dover was prior to my first race. At the time, I didn't have a whole lot to compare that track to. It's nice to have more of a handle on what to expect heading in there now. It's fast and it can make for a really long day of racing. I think that's part of the appeal of it — how demanding it can be."

Gordon honored

Jeff Gordon, winner of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, was named winner of the third-quarter Driver of the Year Award, voted on by a panel of 17 American broadcasters and journalists.

Penske re-signs Logano

Team Penske signed Joey Logano to a contract extension after the best season of his career.

The team announced the multiyear deal Thursday for the Chase contender.

The seven-year NASCAR veteran joined Team Penske at the start of the 2013 season. He has four Sprint Cup wins this season — at Texas Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Roger Penske says Logano, 24, has been "everything we hoped he would be, both as a driver and as a representative of our organization."

Sprint Cup

AAA 400

Track: Dover (Del.) International Speedway (oval, 1.0 miles)

Schedule: Today, practice (Fox Sports 1, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.), qualifying (Fox Sports 1, 3:30-5 p.m.); Saturday, practice (Fox Sports 1, 11 a.m.-noon; Fox Sports 2, 2-3 p.m.); Sunday, race, 2 p.m. (ESPN, 1-6 p.m.)

Distance: 400 miles (400 laps)

Defending champion: Jimmie Johnson


Dover 200

Track: Dover (Del.) International Speedway (oval, 1.0 miles)

Schedule: Today, practice (Fox Sports 1, 10-11 a.m.; ESPN2, 2-3:30 p.m.); Saturday, qualifying (Fox Sports 2, noon-1:30 p.m.), race, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN, 3:30-5:30 p.m.)

Distance: 200 miles (200 laps)

Defending champion: Joey Logano


Rhino Linings 350

Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (oval, 1.5 miles)

Schedule: Saturday, practice, qualifying, race, 10 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m.-12:30 a.m.)

Distance: 219 miles (146 laps)

Defending champion: Timothy Peters