Danica Patrick hit the wall hard during the very last lap of Thursday’s first qualifying race for the Daytona 500. She was holding the number ten spot with two corners to go when Aric Almirola’s Ford veered left into her No.10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, sending her sliding to the inside wall. She hit the wall so hard that her car briefly left the ground.
“It felt pretty big,” Patrick said. “I don’t know what it looked like, but it felt pretty big.”
“It happened really quick,” she said. “When it gets down to the end of the race, everybody’s on each other’s doors really close. That’s what happens. Unfortunately, I was part of it.”
“We were looking to finish honestly,” Patrick said. “I felt comfortable. It was just a matter of getting into the right line with the right people. I’m just bummed out. We only had two corners to go.”
She climbed out of the wreckage uninjured, thanks in part to her taking her hands off the steering wheel just before impact. Wrist and hand injuries are very common in NASCAR when a driver crashes while tightly gripping the wheel. Despite the crash, Patrick still finished in 16th position.
In some good news, Danica returned to Daytona International Speedway on Friday in her backup car and won the pole position for Saturday’s Nationwide race. This makes her only the second woman to ever win a pole in NASCAR’s 64-year history. Patrick started her NASCAR Sprint Cup debut in 29th position at the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26.
UPDATE 02/27/2012: For the first time in 54 years, the Daytona 500 has been postponed due to some scattered showers that moved in around race time. The race was supposed to be moved to today at noon, but the weatherman put a stop to that as well. If rain doesn’t get in the way again, the Daytona 500 will take place tonight at 7pm ET.