But Saturday night was clear progress. Patrick showed that, with an excellent car, she is comfortable competing at the front of the field, and that's a huge step for her.

She accomplished one other thing. By showing she can be competitive on an intermediate track, Patrick squashed AJ Allmendinger's impromptu campaign for the Sprint Fan Vote, which he hoped would propel him into next Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race.

Patrick's run at Kansas all but ensures a Fan Vote landslide for the GoDaddy girl -- if she doesn't earn one of two transfer positions from the Sprint Showdown.

The ideal scenario is for Patrick to earn her spot in the All-Star Race on the track and leave the Fan Vote to another driver.

Based on her run at Kansas, that's a very real possibility.