May 27, 2018
Indianapolis -- Danica Patrick was nervous before her final race. She was uncomfortable during it. And then she was sad.
Danica crashes out of Indy 500, her final race
Patrick crashed on Lap 68 of the Indianapolis 500 in her first IndyCar race since 2011 and the race she chose to end a career where she was the highest-finishing woman in the Indianapolis 500 (third in 2009) and the Daytona 500 (eighth in 2013).
Patrick was obviously devastated her career ended with her worst career finish in eight Indianapolis 500 starts.
"I'm a little sad," Patrick said. "I will say that I'm for sure very grateful for everybody and for being able to finish it up like I wanted to.
"There still were a lot of great moments this month, a lot of great moments this year. ... Today was really disappointing for what we were hoping for and what you want for your last race, but I'm grateful for all of it."
A crash also knocked defending champion Takuma Sato also crashed out of the race after he ran into the back of James Davison's car. Crashes also ended the days of Ed Jones, Sebastien Bourdais and Helio Castroneves.
Jones was taken to a hospital with a headache and neck pain but was awake and alert.
Patrick's final season won't be much to remember as far as race days. She competed in two races, crashing out of both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. She finished 35th at Daytona and then 30th Sunday at Indianapolis.
Danica crashes out of Indy 500, her final race
"It was definitely not a great ending, but I said before I came here that I feel like if it was a complete disaster -- as not in the ballpark at all and look silly -- then people may remember that and if I win people will remember that," Patrick said.
"But probably anything in between might just be a little part of a big story. I kind of feel like that's how it is."
Starting seventh after a solid qualifying effort a week earlier, Patrick dropped to 12th on the opening lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She complained that the car did not handle well, and the adjustments to suspension pieces she could make from the cockpit didn't help much.
She and her Ed Carpenter Racing crew talked about staying patient and not pushing the issue early in the race. But the car snapped loose in Turn 2 and her day was over.
While she did have trouble with the car, Patrick didn't expect it to snap the way it did.
"The car ... was turning a little bit more than I wanted it to -- I was just having to chase it a lot," Patrick said. "Turn 2 did seem a little bit more edgy than some of the other corners, but I can't say at that point in time, I was on edge or felt like I was.
"It just swung around as soon as I kind of recommitted back to the throttle for the little bit of understeer in the middle of the corner. I wasn't expecting it by any means but I think it just goes to show that these IndyCars are tough to drive."
With 116 career starts in IndyCar -- including the first victory for a female when she won in Japan in 2008 -- and 191 starts in NASCAR with seven top-10 finishes, Patrick announced in November that she would not try to seek sponsorship to continue in NASCAR and would do the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 to end her career.
Patrick's father, T.J., said ending her career at Indianapolis was appropriate, since it was the place where she made her name as a rookie.
"This is where she needs to end her career," T.J. Patrick said before the race. "This is where it began. It is where it needs to end. ... We talked about it last year. I told her, 'You need to [go out] how you want it to go out, not how somebody else wants it.'
"And that's what she did."
Admitting she was nervous throughout the month and on race morning, Patrick was surrounded by dozens of family and friends before the race. Her boyfriend, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, gave her a hug and a good-luck pat on the butt right before she got in the car.
"Today was a tough day," Patrick said. "A little bit of it was OK; a lot of it was tough to drive. ... It definitely was not the way I wanted it to end of course.
"I wouldn't want it to end any year like that but of course it being the last one, it makes it a lot worse. I did have some good moments here this month, and I won't forget that either."
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