AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Danica Patrick was bummed after fading on the last lap of a historic Daytona 500.
Some kind words from owner Tony Stewart and race winner Jimmie Johnson picked up her spirits a little.
“To have somebody like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson tell me that on some level I made good decisions out there at the very end was a really nice thing for them to say,” Patrick said from Phoenix International Raceway on Friday. “It makes me feel a little better. I still feel like I want to have a better plan in the future, but in that moment (they said) I had made some decisions, so it was appreciated.”
In her first full season in a Sprint Cup car, Patrick became the first woman to sit on the pole at the Daytona 500 and raced near the front all day, leading five laps. Coming around on the final lap, she had Johnson and Greg Biffle in front, leaving her in position to make a run for the win.
Instead, Patrick got bogged down on the outside behind Biffle and was passed by drivers on the low side, fading from third to eighth.
In her post-race meeting with Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, Patrick was told she made the right move and probably would have lost even more ground if she had tried something.
While congratulating Johnson after his second Daytona 500 win, Patrick heard some more encouragement from NASCAR’s five-time champion.
“He said I did a nice job, too,” Patrick said. “I said I wish I had a better plan, but thank you and I have a lot to learn. He said that the two wins he had, he didn’t have a plan and sometimes you just have to take it on the fly and work with what happens in the moment.”
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