Last-lap accident ends Patrick’s Duel early

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Stewart-Haas Racing press release

GoDaddy.com Driver Will Drive Backup Car in 54th Daytona 500

Danica Patrick walked away from a nasty accident on the final lap of the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race Thursday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, finishing a disappointing 16th in the 60-lap event. Patrick earned the 29th starting spot in Sunday’s 54th Daytona 500, but she will be forced to race in her backup car and move to the rear of the field before the start, per NASCAR rules.

Patrick is driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet Impala for Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) via a collaborative agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

Forty-nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were split among the two Duels, putting 25 drivers in the first 150-mile race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and 24 drivers in the second 150-mile race.

I’m really just bummed out that we didn’t finish the last two corners.

Danica Patrick

Patrick was in 14th place and exiting turn two on lap 60 when the Ford of Aric Almirola was hit by another car. Almirola’s car, which was on the outside of Patrick’s GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, was forced into the right side of Patrick’s car.

The resulting contact sent Patrick’s machine into 180-degree spin across the infield pavement before she made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier on the inside backstretch wall with the right front of her machine. The car was extensively damaged, but Patrick walked away from the accident and was checked and released from the infield care center.

“I’m betting that everybody that was watching on TV probably had the best look,” Patrick said. “From my perspective, it was obviously the last lap and the bottom lane started moving well, so that is where I was. We were just getting our run down the back, and all of a sudden I got hit. I’m betting that somebody also got hit outside of me. I’m going to have to look.

“It was just a chain reaction. Every person that gets hit, next and next and next. It gets bigger and bigger. It felt like a pretty big hit, so I don’t know what it looked like. I’m really just bummed out that we didn’t finish the last two corners. Instead we have a Go Daddy car in the wall and lots of damage. But maybe the backup car will be faster.”

Patrick, who started 17th, still gained valuable experience in her first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

“If that would have happened at the beginning (of the race), it would have been very frustrating to not have that experience,” Patrick said. “I was definitely picking up a lot about the side drafting and about which lanes move well. How to just pick up the draft in front of me without pushing it away and trying to stay in a nice pocket there. Of course, I’m going to go back, and I’m going to be asking what I need to do. I’m definitely asking Tony (Stewart) what to do.

Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet crashes on the last lap
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet crashes on the last lap

Photo by: Mario Bartkowiak

“At times it was much calmer than I expected, to be honest. At times when we got single file or just very steady, two-lane racing, it was pretty calm. I felt like I learned a lot. I felt like I learned a lot about the side draft and what to do in those situations and get the most out of it.”

Tony Stewart, driver-owner of SHR, crossed the stripe ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., as the checkered and caution flags waved simultaneously. Stewart collected his third Gatorade Duel win, with the others coming in 2005 and 2007.

Marcos Ambrose finished third. Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five, while the rest of the top-10 consisted of Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger, Robby Gordon and Jamie McMurray.

Matt Kenseth won the second Gatorade Duel by .209 of a second over Regan Smith. Jimmie Johnson, Elliott Sadler and Greg Biffle took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, SHR’s Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne.

With the Gatorade Duel races now complete, the field for the Daytona 500 is set. Edwards is on the pole, with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Biffle sharing the front row. Both drivers locked in front-row spots for the Daytona 500 after producing the two quickest laps during time trials Sunday, Feb. 19.

Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet crashes on the last lap
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet crashes on the last lap

Photo by: Mario Bartkowiak

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, danica, featured, go daddy, patrick, stewar-haas