Danica Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet SS was fast enough to win the pole for Sunday's Daytona 500. It was fast enough to stay up front for most of the day in the 55th running of NASCAR's most important race at Daytona International Speedway. It was so fast, however, that Patrick spent almost no time passing in traffic and lacked the experience to make an aggressive move for the win in the closing laps.
Asked whether she was more elated with her eighth-place finish or more disappointed at not winning in one of the race's strongest cars, Patrick elaborated.
"I would imagine that pretty much anyone would kick themselves and say what I could have, should have done to give myself the opportunity to win," Patrick said. "I think that's what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that.
"There was plenty of time while you were cruising along. I was talking to (crew chief) Tony (Gibson) and my spotter on the radio, ‘What do you see people doing? What's working? What's not?' I was thinking in the car, ‘How am I going to do this?' I didn't know what to do, exactly."
That's not surprising. This was Patrick's second Daytona 500. In her first, she ran one full lap before her car was damaged severely in a wreck she didn't cause.
"So I feel like maybe that's just my inexperience," Patrick said of her inability to construct a winning move. "I suppose the only downside of running in that front group all day is that I never got any practice passing. I never tried really anything.
"The only thing we really did was on those starts. The inside line had a lot of momentum for the first couple of laps. That was the most action that happened until the very end."