Mark Martin won the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when a flat tire sent leader Brad Keselowski into the wall on the final lap.
The race, however, will be remembered for Danica Patrick’s history making run. Patrick placed fourth, the best finish for a woman in a national NASCAR race since Sara Christian was fifth at Pittsburgh in 1949. “We just had a good car, that’s all I can say. That’s what makes a difference in these things,” said Patrick. “I know I haven’t had the best results, especially in NASCAR, but we’re getting them now.” Patrick came back from a lap down and worked her way into the top 10, then capitalized when most of the drivers ahead of her had to make late fuel stops. That included pole-sitter Carl Edwards, who gave up the lead to pit late. It put Patrick inside the top five, where she improved on her previous career-best finish of 14th, earned at Daytona last month. It’s the 16th race of her NASCAR career. “I don’t know. I don’t think about trying to achieve the highest finish of a female,” she said. “I think about trying to win the race.” The fuel issues, and a midrace crash by Kyle Busch, shuffled the final running order and put Keselowski in position to win the race. But the defending Nationwide champion got a flat tire on the final lap and his Dodge darted into the wall. “Must have run over something because it went down pretty quick,” he said. Martin, who didn’t think he had enough gas to get to the finish, then sailed by for the victory. “I just decided I wasn’t going to run out of gas, and then with two to go, I went ahead and stepped on it (because) I figured I was close enough to the finish,” Martin said. “Golly, that’s a storybook ending for me.” Just Allgaier finished second to give Turner Motorsports, a Nationwide Series team competing against Sprint Cup teams every weekend, a 1-2 finish. Keselowski wound up third. Trevor Bayne was fifth and Edwards settled for sixth after leading 68 laps. Denny Hamlin was seventh, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jason Leffler and Kenny Wallace rounded out the top 10. Busch led a race-high 84 laps, but wrecked when he tried to make a three-wide pass around Keselowski. He ducked his car into the grass, lost control and couldn’t save it as he ran into an interior wall. He finished 30th. “I know the grass typically doesn’t work, so I look kind of stupid doing that,” he said. “I screwed up.”