DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Trouble found Danica Patrick again.
Just 48 hours after smashing hard into a retaining wall in a qualifying race for Sunday's Daytona 500, Patrick got clipped again, this time by her own teammate, Cole Whitt, sending her into a spin and eventually the wall just 50 laps into the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
"What the [expletive]," she yelled over her team radio. "He [expletive] hit me."
After driving her damaged race car to the garage, Patrick jumped out, helmet still on, and stormed into her team hauler, leaving a trail of media behind her.
It was the second time in three days her race was ruined by a crash that was no fault of her own. Thursday she got bumped by Aric Almirola; Saturday it was Whitt.
"I don't think it's ever great when teammates come together," she said afterward. "We'll have to figure out what happened and move forward."
As Whitt explained it, the two were trying to use the two-car draft to move to the front, with him playing the role of the pusher.
"We're teammates," he said. "We want our team to win. I mean, that's why we were pushing each other anyways – we want to get our team up front together."
When told Patrick expressed her dissatisfaction over the radio, Whitt responded, "I wouldn't expect her to be happy about it. I wouldn't be happy about it either. I don't know why anyone would expect her to be like, 'Oh yeah, that's great.' "
The wreck ruined what could have been a storybook day for Patrick, who on Friday became just the second woman ever to win a pole position for a Nationwide Series race. Starting up front, Patrick teamed up with her boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., to lead the first two laps of Saturday's race.
She was running comfortably in the top 20 at the time of the accident. She wound up 38th.
Lost in the hoopla that always surrounds Patrick is the fact that she's running for a Nationwide Series championship. Saturday's 38th-place finish means she starts the season in a significant hole.
"The bummer of it is not only is it the start to the championship and I'm in the championship and every point matters – which is why we went back out there again – but there are so many other days when your car isn't perfect, isn't super fast and nothing happens to you," she said. "And you think why on the days when I have a really fast car it has to happen today. But it did and we'll move on."
James Buescher won the race in a wild finish that saw an 11-car wreck as the leaders raced for the finish.
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