LAS VEGAS – Mark Martin knew he had to save gas to have any chance of winning the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Even then, he was going to need some help.
He got it when leader Brad Keselowski cut a tire on the final lap of Saturday’s race, and Martin sailed past him for the victory. It was the fourth win in six Nationwide races at Las Vegas for Martin.
The race will most likely be remembered, though, for Danica Patrick’s history-making run and not the last-lap dramatics.
Patrick placed fourth, the best finish for a woman in a national NASCAR race. The previous best was Sara Christian’s fifth at Pittsburgh in 1949.
It was a turnaround for Patrick, who struggled all weekend at Las Vegas and fell a lap down in Saturday’s race. But she put herself in position to get back on the lead lap, then steadily worked her way into the top 10.
“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, who has only 16 races in her NASCAR career, improved on her previous career-best finish of 14th, earned at Daytona last month.
Justin Allgaier finished second to give Turner Motorsports a 1-2 finish.
Keselowski wound up third, but finished his first Nationwide race of the season after wrecking at Daytona and Phoenix.
Trevor Bayne was fifth and Carl Edwards, who had to give up the lead late to stop for gas, 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.