Danica Patrick’s NASCAR debuted lasted 51 laps sooner than she hoped.
After struggling through much of the first part of the race, and even falling a lap down before receiving the lucky dog on lap 55, Patrick failed to show the glimpses of promise she displayed one week earlier in the ARCA event at Daytona, and was eventually caught up in a 12-car pile-up on lap 69. She finished 35th.
“I slowed down in the middle of [Turn] 4 because I saw [the crash] and then I thought we were all under control again. All of a sudden you see smoke and I literally could not see a thing, so that’s that the problem,” she said to reporters following the crash. “It’s also a product of racing so close together, you don’t give yourself any gap to take some open space or see anything. I was just caught up in an accident like so many other people at these big speedways.”
Patrick looked like the inexperienced rookie she is in the first half of the race, losing the draft on more than one occasion. She also failed to run close enough to the cars in front of her needed to generate any type of push in the draft.
Still, Patrick admits this was part of the plan.
“I really just take it to the limit of where I feel comfortable and what the car’s giving me, and in the first stint I didn’t feel good,” she said. “I didn’t feel like the car was going to get me what I wanted if I would’ve pushed it any harder.”
After the first wave of pit stops, Patrick claimed both she and the car felt more comfortable, but as she began to work her way into the top 25, a multi-car crash ended her day. She didn’t reach her goal of finishing the full 300 miles, but felt a good finish was possible if she did.
“That second run there I felt much better, the car felt much more under control and I felt we would’ve finished strong if we would’ve finished,” she said. “That was the goal, but as you can see it’s easier said than done.”