INDIANAPOLIS — Danica Patrick’s star-crossed motorsports career ended with a spin, clouds of white tire smoke and contact with the Turn 2 wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Sunday’s 102nd Indianapolis 500, the place and the race that launched “Danicamania” 13 years ago.
Rather than come full circle at the checkered flag on the 2.5-mile oval, Patrick’s race ground to a halt on Lap 67 of the scheduled 200 when the rear end of her bright green No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet broke loose at approximately 220 mph exiting Turn 2. The car made hard contact with the Speedway’s SAFER Barrier wall on the left side pod, pancaking the front suspension and spewing debris.
Patrick’s mother, Bev, placed a hand on her head in disbelief along pit road as the crash scene was replayed on the track’s monitors.
Sporadic applause broke out from the grandstands as Patrick was transported to the track’s infield medical center. She was uninjured, but the result was a huge letdown for Patrick, who became a crossover marketing celebrity when she started and finished fourth as a rookie in the 2005 Indy 500. Patrick also led 19 laps in that race — the first woman to lead an Indy 500 — en route to Rookie of the Year honors. Her third-place result here in 2009 remains the highest by a woman in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Patrick, who started seventh and finished 30th in the 33-car field, admittedly was a reluctant participant in her final post-race news conference.
“Definitely not a great ending,” said Patrick, 36, who wrapped up the NASCAR Cup Series portion of her career Feb. 18 with a 35th-place result in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. “I kind of said before I came here that if it’s [Indy 500] a complete disaster — ‘complete’ like not in the ballpark at all, look silly — then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that. But probably anything in between might just be a little part of a big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is, you know?”
Beyond a July commitment to become the first woman to host the ESPY Awards, Patrick’s retirement plans remain open-ended.
“I’m thinking I’m going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay,” Patrick said before the race, alluding to boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the star quarterback of the Packers. “I will say, though, for sure I’m very grateful for everybody and for being able to finish up like I wanted to. It still was a lot of great moments this month, a lot of great moments this year.”