DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Danica Patrick‘s NASCAR career ended with a crash and a 35th-place finish Sunday in the Daytona 500.
The 35-year-old Patrick announced in November that she would end her racing career in 2018, first in NASCAR with the Daytona 500 and then in IndyCar with the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.
“My family and friends have all been here, so many people have reached out, [and] it’s been a nice week, so I’m not going to dwell on the result here,” Patrick said. “That’s always a chance when you come to a superspeedway that’s the result.”
Patrick said she was pleased that her Premium Motorsports car seemed competitive. Getting caught in accidents in the races at Daytona is common. By the time Patrick was out of the race, Harvick, Keselowski, Elliott and Jimmie Johnson were among those knocked out in that accident or earlier accidents.
The race was the 191st in the NASCAR Cup Series for Patrick, whose eighth-place finish in the 2013 Daytona 500, in which she made history as the only woman to win a pole in a NASCAR Cup race, is the highest by any female in the event.
“The ride around [in a truck prior to the race] was a little bit emotional just seeing all the fans stand up. It was really a nice feeling for me,” Patrick said. “It’s not even because of [the last race].
“The last year, I’ve said to people riding around the truck with me, ‘These are things that we’re going to miss when we’re done because they don’t seem like a big deal now, but they’re pretty cool to have everybody cheering for you when you ride around.’ It was good. That was a nice moment.”
Elliott took the hardest hit in the accident, in which he spun after getting a good push in the draft from Keselowski.
“I had a big push from Brad and was trying to do something with it on Ryan [Blaney],” Elliott said. “I didn’t really expect to get by him. I was kind of feeling him out to see how aggressive he wanted to be and just kind of got light over the transition and was a big push at the wrong time, I guess.
“It happens, and we will just move on down the road.”
Harvick said the aggressive blocking up front finally caught Elliott.
“You really can’t block that aggressively,” Harvick said. “They got away with it, especially the 24 [Elliott] got away with it most of the weekend and didn’t get away with it that time. Unfortunately, we were one of the cars that got tore up.”
Patrick said she would have loved “to deliver on the hype” of her final race, and everything was going well. But the record books will show seven top-10 finishes in 191 career starts.
“All in all, it’s been a really, really cool experience,” Patrick said. “I made a lot of friends and a lot of great fans.”
Patrick will drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in the Indianapolis 500, in which her third-place finish in 2009 is the best in that event by a female.
“This part is over now,” Patrick said. “I hope you remember me as a great driver, and I was a girl and it was cool to watch me.”