Danica Meets Daytona - The Hard Way
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA — Danica Patrick started her first Sprint Cup event of the season today. Her GoDaddy Chevrolet sat in the 17th starting spot of the first Gatorade Duel this afternoon, one of two qualifying races for the Daytona 500.
Her goal was stay out of trouble, learn all she could, and bring the race car home in one piece.
The only one she got from that list was the lesson. Daytona is an unforgiving two and half miles of high bank racetrack that chews up racecars and spits out drivers like watermelon seeds.
Her first start in the NASCAR major leagues was not a total disaster. She got in all but one lap without any trouble. Coming out of turn two Patrick was minding her own business on the lower lane when the #43, driven by Petty rookie Aric Almirola, came down on the GoDaddy machine sending Patrick careening across the infield without a hint of slowing down. At 180 mph the inner retaining wall comes up fast and hard.
Patrick admitted the impact rivaled any she has endured in in her racing career, but she walked away without injury, a testimony to the safe construction of these cars.
"Yeah, it was pretty big. I guess it's pretty good that it happened [Thursday] and not on a Saturday or Sunday — because that would have meant I crashed in the Nationwide race, and that would have been bad," said Patrick, who is making the transition to NASCAR full time this year after running a full-time IndyCar schedule and part-time NASCAR schedule the past two years.
"It sucks. You just kind of brace yourself. I guess in these situations, I just need to be glad that I'm a small driver and that I've got room to just kind of hug it in and let it rip."
Patrick starts 29th on the Daytona 500 grid. Start time is Sunday, February 26, 12:00 pm EST.