Danica Patrick disappointed after bumpy Daytona Speedweeks
Feb 25, 2014 at 8:00a ET
For all that went right for Danica Patrick during Daytona Speedweeks last year, about as much went wrong for NASCAR's most popular female in 2014.
A year after rocking the NASCAR world by becoming the first woman to win the pole for the sport's biggest race, Patrick struggled in qualifying -- turning only the 25th best time out of 49 drivers. This disappointment came after losing an engine in the previous day's practice, meaning Patrick would be forced to drop to the back of the grid for the Daytona 500 no matter where she ultimately finished in her Budweiser Duel qualifying race on Thursday.
The second-year fulltime Sprint Cup Series driver secured her place in the Daytona 500 by finishing 14th in her Duel from which the top 15 drivers automatically transferred into Sunday's main event.
But with the Daytona 500 came more trouble for Patrick, who ran competitively before crashing out of the race on Lap 145 when teammate Kevin Harvick moved up the track and clipped Brian Scott, triggering a crash involving nine cars -- with Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet getting the worst of it by veering straight into the Turn 4 wall.
"What the hell happened?" she vented over her team radio before exiting her wrecked vehicle.
Afterward, the Roscoe, Ill., native was more diplomatic but no less disappointed. After all, only a year earlier, she ran at or near the front for the entire race, and even had a shot to win in the closing laps. This time, she left with a 40th-place finish and a torn-up race car on a day when the highest finishing Stewart-Haas Racing driver was Harvick, in 13th.
"I think more than anything I am just upset that the GoDaddy car felt really good and it was the best car that I had all Speedweeks," Patrick said after exiting the Daytona 500 with 55 laps still remaining. "It seemed like we could catch whoever and it seemed like we could move around, make lanes and just move around and move forward at the end of the day. I felt like everything was going pretty well, so it's just upsetting, you know."
Especially after finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 as a rookie last season.
"It's a bummer, 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," she said. "But that is the kind of thing that happens."
Patrick's Speedweeks began with a wreck in the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race when she suffered heavy damage to her No. 10 Chevrolet in a collision with boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- of all people.
Stenhouse, operating with limited visibility after his hood was knocked in from involvement in a multi-car crash on Lap 36, smashed right into Patrick's mostly unscathed car as he attempted to drive away from the wreck. Both were done for the night, but Patrick wasn't upset with her boyfriend.
"He got me 18 tin cans of Godiva dark chocolate for Valentine's Day so I don't know if he's trying to butter me up or get me fat," she said. "I feel like I have probably got enough. If his hood wouldn't have been up and he hadn't had the inability to see, obviously, there would have been more frustration. It was one of those racing things."