Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 | 7 p.m.
Danica Patrick experienced about as wide a range of emotions as she possibly could Saturday in the Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Through 67 laps, Patrick was in third place and racing significantly better than she did in her first two NASCAR events. But 17 laps later, on the second turn of lap 84, Patrick ran her No. 7 Godaddy.com car into the back of Michael McDowell’s No. 81 Monte Carlo car and ended her day prematurely.
“That’s racing,” Patrick said. “It happens.”
With that, Patrick’s foray into the NASCAR Nationwide Series ends until late June. She will now prepare for her IndyCar schedule, before re-joining the Nationwide Series in New Hampshire in the summer.
“It would have been nice to have a decent finish,” Patrick said. “I was feeling better and better all the time.”
That was on display Saturday. Despite starting 25th, Patrick worked her way up to the front of the race after taking an early pit stop that put her on a different cycle than most of the drivers.
Patrick was able to battle with some of NASCAR’s top drivers, including eventual-winner Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards for a few laps at the front of the pack.
“It was nice to run up there with those guys and start trying to earn their respect,” Patrick said.
Her demise came less than 20 minutes later after she dropped back a few spots into the middle. Coming across the second turn on fresh tires, she prepared to blow by McDowell.
But the front of her car collided with the back of McDowell’s. She then slammed into the wall before making contact with McDowell once more.
Patrick was fine, but the front of her car suffered major damage. All she could do was roll into the garage as a swarm of media and fans rushed over to see her climb out of her car.
“I feel bad for everybody who worked hard,” Patrick said. “I feel bad for crashing the car. I’m not the type of person who crashes a car.”
McDowell, however, said Patrick had nothing to apologize for. He took full blame for the crash.
Patrick was trying to go underneath McDowell when he dropped back and the crash occurred. The collision also ended his day.
“I take 100 percent responsibility,” McDowell said. “The closing rate was just so much that there wasn’t a whole lot of time to make a decision.”
Patrick said she would miss being around NASCAR but would be paying close attention on television.
She’s already looking forward to being back on the circuit in June — especially after tasting some success at Las Vegas.
“I felt good the whole time, really,” Patrick said. “I felt like I was on a roll.”
“This was a big step.”