AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Danica Patrick had one of the hardest hits of her career when her car slammed into the wall at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, but walked away uninjured.
Running 26th with just over 100 laps left, Patrick blew a right front tire coming around turn 4 and slammed the right side of her car into the wall. She careened back onto the track and was hit hard again by David Ragan, flipping her hood over the windshield and shredding the left front fender as protective foam flew from the driver's side door.
Patrick coasted to a stop near the inside wall with pieces of her car strewn across half the home straightaway. A smoking chunk of tire also flew into pit lane.
Patrick climbed out of her car and was quickly cleared by the infield care center.
"Whenever those right-fronts go, they always hit hard because you don't broadside, you hit more straight on," Patrick said. "It took a hard hit both sides and I'm fine, so NASCAR is doing a good job at safety. But no real good warning. The car wasn't all that tight and most of the (problems) were in the rear, so there was no real vibration that told me that was going to happen."
Patrick became the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole and lead green-flag laps at the Daytona 500 last week, sending her popularity into a new realm. She struggled with her car in qualifying at Phoenix, starting 40th, and had to make some major adjustments during the race after reporting vibrations in the rear near the midpoint.
"For me, it sucks to lose the points," she said. "Everybody works hard and after last weekend, we just wanted to get these three races to get some solid points to re-establish the garage area. We're parked in the dirt this weekend, so I really wanted my guys to get into the garage area. We'll just have to get it at Vegas."
With not enough stalls at Phoenix, rookie Patrick's team had to work outside the garage area.