- Danica Patrick finished 20th in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale.
- She ended up 27th in driver points and finished 2nd to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in rookie-of-the-year standings.
- Patrick, the most high profile woman in auto racing, never got back near the level of her performance in the season-opening Daytona 500.
HOMESTEAD, Florida — Danica Patrick's rookie season in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing started with a bang in Daytona, but ended with a whimper in the Ford EcoBoost 400 Sunday evening.
Patrick, 31, won the pole for the series' signature event, the Daytona 500, in February. She finished 8th in the race. It was her 11th start in a Cup car. Thirty-six races later, at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the season finale, she finished 20th.
There can be little question that Patrick is the most prominent woman driver in auto racing. There is good data to support the claim. She was the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500 and she posted a 3rd and a 4th among six top-10 finishes in seven starts at Indy. Her worst finish in the Memorial Day weekend classic was 22nd.
But at the end of her ballyhooed debut season in NASCAR's premier series, her results were mediocre.
Sunday's finish at Homestead was her ninth of the year in the top 20. Only once — in the Daytona 500 — did she crack the top 10.
In the undercard Nationwide Series from 2010-'12, Patrick had one top-five finish (a 5th at Las Vegas in 2011) and six top-10 finishes, with a best of 8th at Texas in 2012.
She finished 27th out of 78 drivers who earned points in Sprint Cup competition during the season. Two drivers who did not start all 36 races — Denny Hamlin, winner of Sunday night's race, and Mark Martin — placed higher than Patrick in the final standings.
Her Cup Series team owner, Tony Stewart, finished 29th in points even though his season ended after 21 races when he suffered a badly broken leg.
Patrick noted the high points of the Daytona race and a 12th-place finish five races later in her first start at the tough, flat, half-mile Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway. Then, she added, "We just didn't really get a lot better" through the remainder of the year.
She made headlines with a romantic relationship with a fellow Cup Series rookie driver — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — but in the end, Stenhouse easily captured rookie-of-the-year honors, matching Patrick with one pole and posting a 3rd-place finish at Talladega, plus two other finishes in the top 10.
Edmunds says: Patrick's career stats are marked by zeroes in the victories column, with one exception — an IndyCar Series win in 2008. But as a Cup rookie, she was never even a contender for a victory.