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Danica Patrick leads Stewart-Haas drivers at Las Vegas

Danica Patrick led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday where she drove her No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS to a 21st-place finish in her second Sprint Cup start at Las Vegas and the 49th of her career.

Danica Patrick photos from Las Vegas
Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
 Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet, stands on the grid before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

The day was a dismal one for the SHR team as only two drivers broke the top-20 mark. Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS in his third race for SHR, finished 26th.

Tony Stewart ended the race in 33rd position, four laps down. “Loose” is how Stewart constantly described his racecar, and no matter what crew chief Chad Johnston did in an attempt to solve the car’s ill-handling ways, nothing made a lasting impact.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for SHR and winner of last week’s race at Phoenix, finished 41st but the result was not indicative of his performance. Harvick led twice for 23 laps before a broken left-front wheel hub sent him to the garage for repairs. After his team replaced the wheel hub, Harvick returned to the race 30 laps down.

“For us on the 10 car, we were really good all weekend,” Patrick said. “The guys on the Aspen Dental Chevy gave me a great car. The weakest session we had all weekend was the last practice. I’m really happy with the cars this year. I was running with the leaders the last half of the race, but I was a lap down. Unfortunately, one car always stayed out (rather than pitting), so we couldn’t get our lap back (via the wave around). And we just missed the lucky dog spot.”

Patrick said she was happy with her run after her finishes of the last two weeks. She was involved in accidents not of her making in the season-opening Daytona 500 and at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend and finished 40th and 36th, respectively.

“Obviously you always want more, but I’m happy with it, especially after what we’ve gone through the last two weeks,” Patrick said in a team news release. “It’s a good day and gives us something to build on going to Bristol.”

Brad Keselowski was the winner and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished in the runner-up spot, while Paul Menard, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.

After three races, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 14th, 50 points behind first-place Earnhardt. Stewart is 27th, 85 points out of first. Busch is 28th, 86 points out of first, and Patrick is 33rd, 97 points behind Earnhardt.