NASCAR driver Danica Patrick (10) has her car riding on top of the car of Paul… (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty…)
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Danica Patrick's final tuneup in a Sprint Cup car also turned out to be her best before she drives in NASCAR's premier series full time next year.
Patrick finished 17th, her highest finish in the 10 Cup races in which she has driven this season. The former IndyCar racer also has driven all year in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series as she adapts to stock car racing.
After starting 37th in the 43-car field Sunday in the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Patrick steadily climbed through the pack and appeared set for a possible top-15 finish.
But in the closing laps, her No. 10 Chevrolet was hit by the No. 31 Chevrolet of Jeff Burton. As Patrick drove slowly toward the finish, her car apparently was leaking oil, which might have sparked another multi-car crash at the finish that swept her up again.
"I heard there might have been oil from me," Patrick said. "If so, I definitely wasn't intending to make a mess."
Patrick's previous best finish in a Cup car was 24th a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway.
Brad Keselowski vents
At the Texas race, Brad Keselowski raced hard but cleanly against Jimmie Johnson in the final laps until Johnson pulled ahead for the win and, at the time, the Cup points lead.
But after seeing the crashes at Phoenix, including the final one that Keselowski narrowly missed, Keselowski was angry.
"I spent a whole week being bashed by a half a dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I'm out of control and have a death wish, and then I see" crashes "like that," Keselowski said.
"These guys just tried to kill each other. They should be ashamed. It's embarrassing."
Kevin Harvick mulls over future
Kevin Harvick's win Sunday was another victory for his Richard Childress Racing team, but Harvick reportedly is planning to leave Childress for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
The move hasn't been confirmed, but Harvick said that "we have 2012, we have 2013, and regardless of what happens on a business side of things, Richard Childress and myself will always be friends."