Danica Patrick’s bid for a triumphant ending to her racing career ended instead with her car smashed into the Turn 2 wall.
Patrick, 36, chose to end her racing days with one last attempt to win the Indianapolis 500, and she qualified a stout seventh to start Sunday’s race.
But she soon faded and was running 17th on Lap 68 when she lost control of her car, which spun and crashed into the wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That left her with a 30th-place finish in the 33-car field.
“I wasn’t expecting it by any means,” Patrick said of the spin, “but I think it just goes to show that these cars are tough to drive. It was definitely not the way I wanted to end, of course. I’m pretty sad. Today was a tough day.”
But she added that she was “always grateful, always appreciative” to the sport. “The fans all year have made it a lot more special,” she said.
Patrick gained fame starting in 2005 when, as a rookie, she led 19 laps and nearly won the Indy 500 before finishing fourth.
Three years later, she captured her only professional victory at an IndyCar race in Japan. In 2009, she was third in the Indy 500, still the highest finish for a woman in the race.
She later moved to NASCAR stock-car racing and also led laps in the Daytona 500, becoming the only woman to lead that race and the Indy 500.
Spree of crashes
Patrick was one of several drivers who suddenly spun and hit the wall as they grappled with the hot temperatures — which make the track especially slick — and a race car that’s newly designed for the Verizon IndyCar Series this year.
The others included three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves — a Team Penske teammate of race winner Will Power — former Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais.
“It’s frustrating; the car was good,” Castroneves said.
Penske shifted Castroneves, 43, to sports-car racing this season but gave him a ride Sunday in hopes that Castroneves could become only the fourth driver to win the Indy 500 four times.
Will Penske give him another chance next year? “He’s going to be back,” Team Penske President Tim Cindric said. “He will be here next year in one of our cars.”