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Danica Patrick to start 10th at Martinsville, best Sprint Cup non-plate track qualifying effort

Mar 28, 2014, 6:52 PM EDT

NASCAR Sprint Cup Showdown - Qualifying Getty Images

There’s something about Martinsville Speedway that is definitely to Danica Patrick‘s liking.

Patrick recorded the best qualifying effort of her Sprint Cup career – on a non-restrictor plate track, that is – during Friday’s qualifying for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville.

Patrick covered the .526-mile bullring, the shortest track on the Sprint Cup circuit, at a speed of 98.165 mph and an elapsed time of 19.290 seconds.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” Patrick said. “Qualifying is something I know I need to work on, it always has been. It is a weak area for me, and I know that.”

No matter what today, I felt like we kept our heads on straight. Everyone was calm and nobody got upset. We made the car better and better and better.

“And the most important times to make it better are for qualifying and the race. … We were able to get into the last group and get a top-10 out of it, so I’m very pleased with that.”

Patrick’s best overall Sprint Cup qualifying effort to date was earning the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500, where she also finished a career-best eighth (again, on a plate track).

But Martinsville definitely suits her style: she earned her best non-plate track finish in a Sprint Cup event at last spring’s race there, as well, finishing 12th. She came back to finish 17th in the fall Chase race there, as well.

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