Danica Patrick's first Gatorade Duel ended in a crash on Thursday during qualifying, and it was a brutal one.
Patrick was running well until the last lap, when Jamie McMurray hit Aric Almirola who then hit Patrick. Patrick went flying into a safety barrier after skidding out of control.
Patrick said after the Duel, via USA Today:
"It happened really quick. When it gets down to the end of the race, everybody's on each other's doors really close. That's what happens. Unfortunately, I was part of it."
Fortunately, Patrick walked away uninjured, but it wasn't exactly the best way to start her first full NASCAR season, scoring 16th in the 25-car field. Fortunately, Danica had already secured a qualifying position so the crash didn't cost her too many positions on the starting grid for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
Patrick's collision should be a warning for drivers headed into this year's Daytona 500. With the restored pack racing, there are going to be a lot of crashes and close calls. As evidence by this incident, part of the challenge will be avoiding big wrecks.
As Danica tries to make her mark on NASCAR this season, it's a good sign that she was racing well before the collision. She also showed the toughness she's been known for, shrugging off the crash after it happened.
If anything, Danica Patrick gives NASCAR a tough competitor who won't let a violent crash get in her way.
Patrick has already shown that she's game.