Patrick retains her regal status among the women

By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - It was not quite Ladies Day at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday but the women drivers still left their mark on the race, highlighted by another quality effort from Danica Patrick.

What had been a disappointing season and tumultuous Indy build-up for the "Queen of the Brickyard" turned around in one afternoon for Patrick as she clawed her way through the field to claim a sixth-place finish.

The only woman to ever lead a lap at the Indy 500, Patrick has traditionally produced some of her best efforts at the sprawling speedway, including a third place finish a year ago.

Patrick could not match that finish on Sunday but she did leave Indianapolis with her top result this season.

With a record four women in the 33-car field, Patrick's crown was under threat from a pair of Indy Car rookies Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland and Brazilian Ana Beatriz as well as veteran American Sarah Fisher.

Silvestro confirmed her promising credentials completing all 200 laps and finishing 14th while Beatriz impressed in her very first Indy car oval race taking 21st followed by Fisher in 26.

While Patrick did not come close to finishing first she did manage to win back many of the fans who had lustily booed her a week earlier when she publicly blamed her poor qualifying effort on her team.

FAMILIAR CHEERS

All that seemed to be forgiven, however, as a contrite Patrick praised her team and fans lavished American motor sport's most recognizable driver with more familiar cheers.

"I'm very happy with the result and the reason we got it is because our pit stops rocked and we had a perfect strategy," said Patrick, the only woman to win an Indy Car race.

"We did struggle a little bit in the early going but we were able to get the car into the position it should have been in.

"I'm glad that yellow (flag) came out at the end because we were cutting it real close on fuel.

"That's the roll of the dice and team did a perfect job."

Patrick also did her job.

After an unsteady start she wrestled control of her Andretti Motorsport Dallara and turned in a solid-if-unspectacular drive, working her way into contention from 23rd on the starting grid.

Beatriz also left Indianapolis pleased with her efforts.

"It was great run, I was relaxed and glad I finished the race," Beatriz said. "At the end it was kind of fun.

"There are a lot of small things I learned like the setup of the car, what to do mechanically to get the car better, faster.

"It was a great month and I gained a lot of experience."

(Editing by John O'Brien)