By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
INDIANAPOLIS — The likely end of Danica Patrick’s career came 132 laps earlier than she’d hoped for in her final Indianapolis 500 start.
Patrick was maneuvering her No. 13 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet through Turn 2 of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval when she lost control of the machine. The Illinoisan then spun out, making contact with the Turn 2 wall before sliding to a stop in the backstretch infield.
The crash would ultimately end her day and, likely, her career.
“I’m okay,” she told ABC afterwards. “The first thing I said was, ‘I’m not really sure what happened.’ Today was really disappointing for what we were hoping for and what you want for your last race. I wished I could’ve finished stronger.”
The run brought an unceremonious end to a farewell tour filled with heartbreak. Patrick intended to complete both the Daytona 500 and the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, a feat she referred to as the “Danica Double.”
Daytona saw Patrick eliminated after 101 laps, collected as an innocent bystander in one of the track’s signature multi-car wrecks, known as the ’Big One.’ The 36-year-old ended the day in 35th place.
Patrick’s Indy 500 farewell was her first Verizon IndyCar Series start since the 2011 season finale. A seventh-place qualifying performance fostered hope that Patrick would contend, but her Lap 68 crash led to a career-worst finish of 30th.
Should Sunday’s ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ be Patrick’s final start, she’ll end her career with a combined 306 starts in IndyCar and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition.
She tallied seven top 10s and the 2013 Daytona 500 pole in NASCAR, but it’s her trailblazing IndyCar accomplishments – a career-launching debut top five in the Indy 500 in 2005 and a monumental 2008 win at Twin Ring Motegi among them – for which she’ll likely be remembered most.
Patrick was left trying to grasp the potential end to her career after the accident.
“It’s an entire career, but what really launched it was (Indy), so it’s both of them,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of good fortune here, and still had some this month. Just didn’t come on race day, but we had some good moments.”