Danica Patrick Finishes 10th In Daytona Nationwide Race After Her Most Impressive NASCAR Performance Yet

Danica Patrick emerged from the JR Motorsports team hauler right about the time her crew was wheeling her wrecked No. 7 car to the lift gate.

Patrick glanced at the demolished front end of the car and the pancaked right side. And she smiled.

"Who the hell did that?" she cracked.

She did, of course – with a lot of help from Mike Wallace in the last few hundred yards of Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

Crashing as she crossed the finish line, Patrick was nonetheless pumped up after driving the most impressive NASCAR race of her career thus far. Though she was forced to settle for a 10th-place finish (six positions short of her career high), she led 13 laps on five different occasions and was a serious threat to win the race until the very end.

"It was really good to run up front and lead laps for real – not just like I got pushed up front for one lap," she said. "I led a lot of laps and I went to the front a lot. So that was a good feeling."

Patrick, the lead car of the two-car draft with teammate Aric Almirola, had started taking smaller gaps and squeezing her way through holes late in the race. Despite never having done tandem racing before – aside from a couple laps in the February Daytona race – Patrick quickly figured out the strategy and said to herself, 'Alright! I get how this works now.'

She compared it to cruising down the freeway and sailing into the open gaps – except at 200 mph. And she did it with much success.

Midway through her interview, Almirola came up from behind her and squeezed her shoulders. She turned around and gave him a high-five.

"Hey, good job out there, buddy," she told him. "Thank you. I hope I was OK. We were going for fucking broke there at the end."

"No worries," Almirola replied. "You were good."

Almirola told her if they would have waited another half-lap before making their move, they would have been up there with the leaders. But that comes with experience, he said.

Patrick, though, said, "We were going for it." And she'd made that clear as her voice rose in the final laps on the team radio.

"Let's go fucking fast here!" she said after taking the lead with four laps left.

"It was a different me on the radio," she said. "It probably sounded like a determined me. Confident and assertive. A fucking let's-go-get-'em kind of attitude. That's how I felt. I always feel the most aggressive when I feel like I can win, and that was where I was at."

It was a tremendous moment for those listening and watching in the stands, because it put Patrick's competitive fire on full display. The fans let out a roar as they saw her neon green GoDaddy car surge to the front.

"Hopefully I earned (drivers') respect out there some more," she said. "Whether you're a girl or a boy, young or new, you've got to earn the respect of your peers. And that's what I try to do every weekend."

Though she was clearly on a high after getting out of the car, she needed a few moments to collect herself. She had started to feel dizzy and, as she put it, "the dark was closing in on me."

But after recovering for a few minutes in the hauler, she was ready to go celebrate. Though she's an avid wine drinker, Patrick said she had different plans on Friday night.

"I abort mission on the wine after I've been in the car," she said. "I get so dehydrated...that I like to drink beer. So I'm going to go drink beer right now."

From the sounds of that – plus the way she drove in Friday's race – Patrick might be closer to adopting the NASCAR culture than anyone may have realized.

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