Welcome to NASCAR, Danica Patrick.
Daytona Speedweeks 2012 marked Patrick's first foray into the Sprint Cup Series, as she transitions from Indy cars to stock car racing full time.
Patrick would, thanks to some owners' points swapping with Tommy Baldwin Racing, have a guaranteed starting spot in the Daytona 500 with Stewart-Haas Racing, while she would run the Nationwide Series race for JR Motorsports for the third year in a row in preparation for her first full NASCAR schedule.
So much promise ended with so much disappointment, as a series of issues that weren't her fault seemed to follow her around all weekend.
Patrick posted the 29th fastest lap in pole qualifying last Sunday, giving her the 17th starting spot in the first Gatorade Duel. She hung around that race until the end, until a last lap accident that sent her hard into the inside backstretch wall sent her to a backup car for the Daytona 500. She would be listed in the 16th finishing position, putting her 29th again in the 500 starting lineup.
The lone highlight of the weekend came during Nationwide pole qualifying on Friday, when Patrick shocked the world and qualified on pole for the Drive4COPD 300. The sports media world was abuzz as Patrick, for the first time all Speedweeks, became the story for her accomplishments on the track instead of for her celebrity. All signs pointed to a decent start to her Nationwide season.
However, come Saturday, Patrick would only lead the race's first two laps before dropping back in the pack. She would try to hook up with teammate Cole Whitt, but an untimely bump entering the third turn would send her into the outside wall and effectively end her day. Patrick would finish 38th with only 72 laps completed.
Once the Daytona 500 finally rolled around Monday night, Patrick's weekend to forget got even worse. An incident up ahead of her proved impossible to avoid, and while the cosmetic damage she suffered after hitting a spinning Jimmie Johnson was minimal—and could have been much worse, had her spinning car not split the wrecking Fords of Trevor Bayne and David Ragan—the damage to the car's rear end would send her to the garage.
Patrick returned to the race eventually, the broken parts repaired, and would turn competitive lap times. But with all the time spent repairing the car, she could only muster another 38th place finish.
Patrick will remain in the Nationwide Series as the tour heads to Phoenix this weekend, attempting to improve her points position as she competes for that championship. As for her Sprint Cup schedule, Patrick will not compete again until May 12 at Darlington; Baldwin will field David Reutimann, who finished 26th tonight for BK Racing, in the No. 10 Chevrolet until then.
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