As Danica Patrick climbed out of her No. 7 Chevrolet, she wore nothing but smiles. Not only did Patrick “prove” to NASCAR, but she also turned a few heads tonight with her performance at one of NASCAR’s most grueling tracks, Daytona.
“I had a hell of a lot of fun,” Patrick said. “I felt I really had a fast car. Good job to (the team) for putting together a car that could really get up there.” The second half of the race was almost controlled by Patrick, when she found the help needed from experienced Nationwide Series driver Aric Almirola. Patrick eventually took the lead for the last time on lap 96 out of 100.
The two car tandems were at it again, this would eventually shuffle things up with just a lap and a half left. Once Patrick and Almirola got back together on the last lap, they surged into the top five, one could only have imagined what it would have been like if there were ten laps to go instead of the white flag being displayed.
They charged into the top five on the final lap after hooking up again, but Mike Wallace drifted into the pair’s path in the final corner and triggered the multicar wreck. “Mike Wallace was like a fish out of water,” Patrick said. “He was high, he was low. Then he was high (and hitting) me, and (it was) just a cluster.”
Wallace responded back saying, he lost momentum in the final turn after getting a big run on the back straightaway. “I did the best I could,” he said. “I’ll take the responsibility. I’m the driver.”
Patrick eventually crossed the finish line, but with flames under the hood of her No. 7 Junior Motorsports machine. ”I kept it straight and kept my foot in it, too,” Patrick said. “Probably not the right thing to do when there’s a crash. You go for broke. There wasn’t much room for open lanes on the top, but I was taking it.”
How can you judge Patrick’s success? It’s not based upon the end result (even though it was one of her best), but by what she learned out there today. Drafting is the “secret” of racing in this series, if you can master that, then you are on the right track!