Patrick frustrated with crash

DEAN MCNULTY , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 PM ET

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Such was the anticipation leading up to Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide DRIVE4COPD 300 that, when it was announced that Danica Patrick would be unable to attend a pre-scheduled charity event because, after all, she was getting ready for her first ever big-time stock car event, an audible groan was heard coming from the media centre.

These folks needed their Danica fix, and they were none too happy that her race preparation was getting in the way. Who did she think she was, a race car driver?

Well, it turns out Patrick proved that she is indeed a race car driver. But no matter how talented the 27-year-old IndyCar star is, not even the King of stock car racing — Richard Petty — could have avoided the big wreck that ended her day on Lap 69 of the 120-lap race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.

At the point of the wreck, Patrick had just begun a race to the front of the pack after falling behind early in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

“I just hate it that the wreck happened just when I was getting the hang of (racing at Daytona),” she said. “And I hate it even more that a real good race car got wrecked and it wasn’t your fault.”

Her rookie status showed itself, however, when she stalled her race car under a yellow flag while exiting pit lane on Lap 53. But once she got the car back on the track , she moved from 27th to 21st before being caught up in the crash that involved 10 cars directly in front of her coming out of Turn 4.

Patrick had escaped an earlier incident on Lap 8 when two cars wrecked in front of her coming out of Turn 2. A driver of less skill would have wrecked as well. Even Patrick appeared impressed with her effort.

“I don’t know how I didn’t (wreck), but I didn’t,” she told her crew chief Tony Eury Jr., on the in-car radio.

On the crash that took her out, however, Patrick simply had nowhere to go.

“The last time, I just kept going straight and everybody got out of the way,” she said. “But that time, I went straight again, but they didn’t get out of the way.”

Patrick wasn’t the only high-profile driver taken out of the race because of a crash.

Her team owner — Dale Earnhardt Jr. — was involved in a spectacular 10-car accident on Lap 93 when his No. 88 Chevrolet was clipped on the back straight, sending him across the track upside down.

His car was destroyed, but Earnhardt walked away unhurt.

Also taken out of contention were pre-race favourites Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

After the dust settled, Tony Stewart won the race in the No. 4 Chevrolet, outracing Carl Edwards to the finish line.

In spite of her early exit, Patrick was getting good marks for her first NASCAR effort.

ESPN analyst and former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace said that Patrick had nothing to feel bad about.

“She accomplished what she wanted to do (Saturday) and I think she did that,” Wallace said. “There was no way she could have missed that wreck. When the big one hits at Daytona, it plays no favourites.”

Defending Nationwide series champion Kyle Busch said he had no problem with Patrick’s racing ability.

“She’s got a fast car, certainly,” Busch said. “The name doesn’t matter to me.”

And race winner Stewart said that Patrick had done everything that he thought she could and should do in her NASCAR debut.

“This week was a learning week for her,” he said. “And I think that she accomplished that. It was never about her winning, it was about getting to know the car and the type of racing we do in NASCAR.”

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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