Danica Patrick indirectly affected the result of Saturday night's Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway when her contact with James Buescher brought out the final caution and set up a wild finish involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kevin Harvick.
Patrick was running the high line on the backstretch when it appeared as if Buescher drifted up the track and made contact with Patrick's No. 7 Chevrolet. The contact sent Buescher into the inside retaining wall and also collected Mike Bliss and Kyle Fowler. Buescher was unable to finish and took 23rd while Patrick continued on to finish 13th - two laps off the pace.
"We started running the high line and the grip was so good that we got a run off the exit," Patrick said. "It was typical Atlanta racing where the top-runners get off the corner really well and the guys on the bottom don't have any momentum coming out.
"I definitely didn't mean to cause an accident but everyone was fighting for position and I had to respect the outside lane, carry the momentum, and just found myself in an accident."
Patrick struggled all weekend but seemed to find momentum in the second half of the race. Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. instructed Patrick to move up the banking and she responded with faster lap times. She even stayed on the lead lap for a majority of the middle stages of the race before falling to the leaders and making contact with Buescher.
"We were loose the whole time but Tony did a great job of getting me back on the lead lap for a bit – but I just wasn't fast enough," Patrick said. "We made the most of our day and we brought it home, which is always a good thing."
Patrick had one of the more dramatic days of anyone in the field as she also ran over tire debris from Denny Hamlin's wounded car on lap 84. Despite a warning from her spotter, Patrick chose to run directly over the shredded tire instead of swerving to avoid it. This was similar to an incident at Montreal where Patrick ran over a shoe that was tossed onto the racing surface.
"I'm really not shocked by anything in front of me anymore," Patrick said. "I don't know what is next. There was nothing I could do to miss it and if I had tried to yank the steering wheel to avoid it, I probably would have spun. So I had no choice but to hit it. I don't think it caused any damage which is a good thing.
Patrick will also compete in Sunday night's Sprint Cup Series race; she's set to start in 23rd.