Danica Patrick’s short-lived Nationwide Series race was fun while it lasted Saturday but ended in disappointment after just 31 laps.

Patrick led five laps and ran near the front until an ignition issue ended her day in the Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

“I am going to be angry watching the race instead of being in it for a while,” a dejected Patrick said.

The 30-year-old star who will make NASCAR history as the first woman ever to start a Sprint Cup race from the pole when she leads the Daytona 500 field to the green flag Sunday, has spent the last three days just trying to make sure she didn’t wreck her Cup car.

Finally, she got to race Saturday, wheeling a Turner Scott Motorsports car, which she qualified 12th and had out front by the seventh lap of the race.

“There was definitely a sense of relief that I could go where I wanted and do what I wanted out there,” Patrick said.

“If I wanted to make it three-wide, it was encouraged and fine — that’s not somewhere I’ve been at all this year. … That was a nice feeling to take a hole if it was there.”

But her day ended well short in the 120-lap race as she pulled her car down pit road on Lap 32 and was credited with a 36th-place finish in the 40-car field.

The team was able to refire the Hendrick Motorsports engine but it would not have lasted, crew chief Mike Greci said.

“It’s in the ignition some place,” Greci said. “We’re not sure if it’s between the magnetic pickup or in the ignition panels with the wiring. It’s not something she could have picked up on.

“It’s not (just) flip the switch. … She had a shot at winning the race and it started floundering the last 10 laps—it started getting slower and slower and it finally stopped. She was real cool to deal with.”

Patrick, though, was initially frustrated because she questioned whether she could have just flipped the secondary ignition switch. She felt a little better after being told that would not have helped.

“It makes it even worse when you’re out there running like I was, how fast the car was and how easy it was to work around in the front,” Patrick said. “It would have been a really, really fun day, a fun race. I had a good time out there. But you can’t predict problems.”

While frustrated, she tried to look at a bright side to her short day Saturday.

“Unfortunately. it ended early but there were a lot of Cup guys up there I was running around, and hopefully it showed them my ability to work through traffic and my ability to get to the front,” Patrick said.

“Hopefully that will help for tomorrow.”

Leave a Reply.