NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick (7) with front end damage early in the Zippo 200 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International. (Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE)
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - A weekend at a road course that spurred hope for Danica Patrick turned quickly into disappointment.
Patrick finished with the worst result of her NASCAR career - last place, 43rd - in Saturday's Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International after her No. 7 Chevrolet sustained a punctured radiator following a first-lap crash.
Patrick hit Ryan Truex's spinning No. 20 Toyota Camry head-on during the first turn of the Nationwide Seriesrace. The impact brought hood damage to her JR Motorsports machine, and, after a pit stop sent her back on the 2.45-mile circuit, she quickly was sent to the garage with the radiator issue, which turned out to be irreparable damage.
"I looked at the replay, and I could see the 20 ... get sideways and go across the grass," Patrick said outside her hauler. "I was just following the car (in front of me) down into the corner, and right at the last second (Truex) came up on the track right in front of me.
"I suppose in retrospect I should have either slowed down or gone a bit wider. But it's so hard to know in those moments if they're going to come back out on the track and be fine, but he just stopped."
Patrick had higher hopes for the weekend after an encouraging race at Road America on June 23, when she ran in the top five for much of the day.
But after qualifying 23rd for Saturday's race, Patrick found herself without many options in traffic as Truex spun.
"I wish I would have done it differently," said Patrick, recorded her sixth DNF (did not finish) in 21 starts this season. Her previous worst finish was 38th in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
"But that's the way accidents happen. It's unfortunate, because we really felt like we could have a strong finish in the Go Daddy car today."
Patrick's first full-time season in NASCAR has been a roller coaster, but lately there have been more downs than ups. Five of her last 12 starts have resulted in DNFs.
She has one top-10 finish all season, an eighth at Texas Motor Speedway in April.
"I just feel so bad," Patrick said. "I wish it would've gone differently."