After a good start for Danica Patrick, her efforts vanished on Lap 146 during arguably the most important crash of the race.
Patrick was riding high and even led a lap for the second year in a row in the Daytona 500 after starting on the pole in the 2013. But when the wreck happened, Patrick went from a possible top-20 or top-15 finish all the way down to 40th and into the garage.
Her immediate reaction, according to Jeff Owens of Sporting News, was one of shock and disbelief, with Patrick saying, "Oh, man. What the hell happened?"
The 31-year-old then climbed out of her car and spoke about the accident, "It’s a bummer," Patrick said, per Owens. "But you know that is the excitement of speedway racing that anything can happen, and it was unfortunate that I was on the short end of the accident."
Will Patrick win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race?
A total of 12 drivers were involved in the crash from young guns like Justin Allgaier and Parker Kligerman to experienced contenders like Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne, but Patrick's was certainly the most violent.
After being turned, it appeared her steering column went out completely as she went full speed into the wall. Thanks to equipment like the HANS device that have been established over the last decade, Patrick was uninjured, but out of the running with just over 50 laps remaining in the Great American Race.
But this wasn't the first wreck that Patrick was involved in. During the Sprint Unlimited race at the beginning of Speedweeks in Daytona, Patrick collided with boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and was out of that race as well in Lap 36.
Big congrats to dale jr!!!!! @TeamHendrick— Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) February 24, 2014
Nick DeGroot of SpeedwayMedia.com commented on the importance of both Patrick and Earnhardt Jr. following the race:
Danica Patrick & the Return of the #3 make great publicity for the sport, but they got nothing on a Dale Jr. win in the Daytona 500. #NASCAR— Nick DeGroot (@ndegroot89) February 24, 2014
It was a race where Patrick came in as only a second-year driver, but wasn't void of her critics. Richard Petty, a seven-time champion in NASCAR and the winningest driver in the sport, said that Patrick would only win a race if no one else was on the track.
The next race is another one that she has wrecked at in the past, as Patrick crashed on Lap 185 in last year's Subway 500 at Phoenix. That wreck was simply from cutting a tire, so if all goes well she could have another good run as she was experiencing before the wreck.
Those results paired with her most recent woes in Daytona should fuel Patrick to a strong run in Phoenix and hopefully end some of the talks that she can't get the job done. Patrick has just one top-10 finish in her Sprint Cup career, so another one could signify a huge turnaround.
Even with all the criticism, Patrick was racing well before being blindsided in the wreck. Now Patrick simply has to regroup and have a bounce back performance in Phoenix to get back into the points race.
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