Danica Patrick survived and thrived in the messy ARCA Series race at Daytona on Saturday night, impressing some of her doubters in her stock-car debut.
Patrick finished sixth after edging motocross legend Ricky Carmichael at the line, and capped a night in which she fell as far back as 23rd before rallying.
She avoided several wrecks and, in her signature moment of the evening, did a half-spin before saving the car, driving through the grass and making it to pit road without hitting a thing.
"Shoot, to be honest, once I spun down the frontstraight, I took my hands off the wheel for a second and I was like, ‘I'm gonna get majorly collected right here,'" she said. "But there was no one there. Then [crew chief] Tony [Eury] Jr. was in my ear, like, ‘Get back in it!' So I got back in it."
The team was pleased with her run after the race, as JR Motorsports co-owner Rick Hendrick congratulated Patrick on the team radio by saying, "You drove the wheels off that thing, girl. We're proud of you."
Patrick's run was impressive in that she stayed out of trouble and made it to the finish; the top-10 was just a bonus. It could have been better, but she jumped out of line to see if she could make a late pass "just for the heck of it," she said.
She even experienced bump-drafting for the first time and said she felt what it was like to get hit.
"But even if I was [getting hit]? Who cares?" she said. "I learned what it feels like. I learned what it was like to hit people. I learned it was like to hit people from all directions.
"I can't wait to do it again."
Will "again" mean next Saturday night if she decides to participate in the Nationwide Series race, which would be her NASCAR debut?
"I don't know, we haven't made that decision yet," she said. "I have a lot to learn, so we'll have to decide by Monday."
Patrick's presence made the ARCA event perhaps the most high-profile race in series history. A massive group of media followed Patrick's every move and listened to her scanner chatter, in which she was schooled in racing basics like pit stops and caution procedures by Eury Jr.
But the other drivers seemed to welcome the presence of an athlete who transcends sports – her racy GoDaddy.com commercial may appear during the Super Bowl tomorrow.
"I'm glad she was here," race winner Bobby Gerhart said. "It brought some well-needed attention to this series."
Said driver Justin Marks, who finished 11th: "...From someone who just race with her, that girl can drive. And she isn't scared of shit. I was impressed."