Danica Patrick was unable to turn her first NASCAR pole position into a good result after becoming involved in an incident before the halfway mark of the 120-lap Nationwide Series opener.
The JR Motorsports driver led the first lap of her season in the second-tier series after starting from pole, while getting a push from her teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Later while running in the pack, her other teammate Cole Whitt, tapped the back of the No. 7 Chevrolet, sending Patrick into the Turn 3 wall. The consequent damage forced her to the garage for extensive repairs and although she would eventually get back on the track, she finished 48 laps down in 38th place.
"We were just doing big pack racing and went down into [Turn] 3 and got a little tap, got a little bit sideways, saved it and the just got hit again and couldn't save it," said Patrick about the incident. "I don't think it's ever great when teammates come together, so we'll have to figure out what happened and move forward.
"My car was really, really fast. Even when guys were tandem-racing right in front of me, I was able to hang right with them. The bummer of it is that not only it's at the start to the championship, and now every race matters and every point matters, which is why we got out there again...
"But there are so many other days when your car isn't perfect, or isn't great, or isn't super-fast and nothing happens to you and you think 'why on the days that I have a really fast car? Does it need to happen today?'. But it did and we'll move on."
Patrick is now focused on her first Daytona 500 on Sunday. She will start from the rear as her crash in Thursday's Duel race forced her to switch to a back-up car.
"Obviously, we've got the Daytona 500 tomorrow, my first time and I can't dwell on today," she said. "I need to buckle down and focus on the things that I need to get ready for tomorrow, for the big day and hopefully we have a better day."
Turner Motorsports' James Buescher claimed an unexpected victory in the Nationwide event after a multi-car crash was ignited on the last lap when leader Kurt Busch (Phoenix Racing) tried to block Joe Gibbs Racing's Joey Logano exiting Turn 4, taking prerace favorite Tony Stewart, former Nationwide champion Kyle Busch and 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne with him. A total of 11 cars were caught up but all drivers were unharmed despite the ferocity of the crash.