By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
LAS VEGAS - There was no reason to expect a top-five finish from Danica Patrick in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
There was nothing to indicate Patrick would post the best finish for a female driver in one of NASCAR's top three national series, nothing to suggest she would lose two laps and recover to finish fourth against a top-flight field of Nationwide and Sprint Cup drivers.
But she did.
After inconsistent practice sessions Thursday and Friday, Patrick qualified 22nd Saturday morning, hardly a harbinger for a career-best result.
For much of the race, Patrick struggled to stay on or near the lead lap. Kyle Busch passed her on Lap 47 to put Patrick one lap down. She subsequently took a wave-around but fell two laps down when she was forced to pit under green for fuel on Lap 96.
On three occasions she missed the "lucky dog," the free pass to the lead lap NASCAR affords to the highest-running lapped car after a caution. Patrick bewailed her bad luck on the radio.
"I know we missed the lucky dog a few times, and I got mad on the radio a little bit," she said. "I felt like between Phoenix (last week) and here, I missed about six lucky dogs, because I was lucky-dog-plus-one (position).
"It was frustrating. It's not one position-it's a whole lap, and that's a lot. I guess it's an appropriate name, because you sure as heck feel like a lucky dog when you get it."
Patrick supplanted Sara Christian, who ran fifth at Pittsburgh in 1949, as the highest-finishing female in NASCAR history.
Patrick, however, is more interested in making her own history.
"I don't think about trying to achieve the highest-finishing position for a female," she said. "I think about trying to win the race, and if I make history, then so be it."