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Patrick made it to the front at Talladega Superspeedway and finishes with car intact

Danica Patrick took two big positives away from Talladega Superspeedway.

Patrick drove up front six early laps Sunday, the first time she led a Sprint Cup race outside of Daytona. She also finished with her car mostly unscathed.

Patrick says instead of taking a wrecked race car back to North Carolina, the team was able "to roll it up on the truck, which is more than a lot of cars can say after leaving a speedway."

She had held the lead during the Daytona 500 each of the past two years. This time she took over on lap 6 and led half of the opening 12 laps in two separate stints up front.

Patrick says that's evidence that "we've improved our cars."

She piloted through early contact with Brad Keselowski and finished 22nd.