Danica Patrick showed great progress on her third outing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series until contact with a backmarker put her out of the race.
After qualifying down in 37th, the JR Motorsports driver had a much better showing pacewise compared to her struggle a week ago at Fontana, but as she dived on the inside of Michael McDowell on lap 84 at Turn One, the pair made contact and both cars ended up against the barrier.
McDowell was running several laps down due to an earlier incident when he spun right in front of Patrick on lap 18. He later took the blame for bringing her afternoon to an early end when she was running 24th and a lap down on the race leader.
"The car ahead of me was really slow and I caught him down the front straight and it was just going slow. So I went to go underneath him as he drifted up to the wall and he turned down in," Patrick explained.
"I guess I probably should have seen all the tape on the left-rear bumper and say, 'I probably shouldn't be on his left-rear bumper.' But sure enough he turned down and took us both out. So, what are you going to do?"
Before the incident, Patrick had run as high as third thanks to being out of sequence with most of the leaders and running a very long first stint until lap 73. Her times on new rubber on her second tire stint looked comparable with some of those in the top-10 and she was among the fastest cars on the track right before crashing out.
"It's a real bummer because I was really hooked up there after we got [new] tires back on and you know, we were probably one of the quicker cars on the track because we just stickered it up and I felt good," Patrick added.
The IndyCar star was able to experiment with different racing lines throughout the race, even taking some advice from eventual race winner Kevin Harvick, who showed her where to run on the track when he lapped her on lap 52.
"Kevin Harvick was great, actually, leading the race he is telling me to go up [on the banking] with him, so that was cool and I was able to run up high and feel that line out because he was giving me the finger out the window," said Patrick. "So you know, that's really cool to see, because the guy's leading the race, and he's taking time to help me out. It was good.
"I learned, for sure. We had a good car, we really did. I said earlier that we had a better car than what we qualified. Unfortunately we got caught up in a bad situation with a driver that wasn't looking and probably a spotter than wasn't calling."
Patrick was one of five rookies entering the race, and they all were involved in incidents.
She will now return her focus to her IndyCar duties, as her next Nationwide Series outing will be in about four months' time at New Hampshire on June 26.