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Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 02/28/2012

Danica Patrick’s first Daytona 500 is one to forget

Danica Patrick came to Daytona looking to make an impression in the opening race of her first season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

And leave an impression she did — on walls around the track, other race cars and her own No. 10 Chevrolet.

Over a four-day span, the former IndyCar Series driver experienced a season’s worth of peaks and valleys. From a scary crash during a qualifying race, to winning the pole for the Nationwide Series to a second-lap crash and a 38th place finish in Monday’s absurd Daytona 500 disaster, Patrick’s first weekend back in pack racing could not have been more eventful — or more disappointing.

In case you missed it, here’s a refresher on Patrick’s week.

Thursday: Aric Almirola bumps Patrick’s car during the Ga­tor­ade Duels qualifying race, sending her skidding across the infield. She slams hard into an inside wall, lifting her car off its wheels, but somehow, she escapes uninjured.

“It felt pretty big,” Patrick said afterward. “I don’t know what it looked like, but it felt pretty big.”

Friday: Patrick wins pole position for Saturday’s Nationwide race, becoming the first woman to win a NASCAR pole since Shawna Robinson in 1994.

Saturday: JR Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt bumps Patrick, causing her to lose control, bump into the wall and spin onto the infield.

Monday: Elliott Sadler bumps Jimmie Johnson, turning him into the wall. Patrick is caught in the fray and spins into the infield where she narrowly avoids another collision by slipping between a pair of out of control cars on the grass. Patrick finishes 38th.

“I mean, I was pretty speechless,” Patrick said of her reaction to the wreck. “I didn’t really know what to say. I just pretty much kept my mouth shut and just sat there. Just breathe.”

But Patrick, ever the optimist, won’t let one rough weekend get her down.

“I would have loved to have run up there. I would have loved to have got the experience when you actually were racing for positions as opposed to just feeling it out,” Patrick said of her first Daytona 500. “But I truly believe everything happens for a reason.”

If everything does happen for a reason, then perhaps Juan Pablo Montoya’s fiery crash into a jet dryer was meant to show NASCAR, it should have postponed the Daytona 500 altogether.

For Patrick, the week was a frustrating introduction to the Sprint Cup Series circus, but one full of lessons that should help her moving forward.

“I’m sure this is not new territory for a new driver,” Patrick said. “I just wish it could have gone better for everybody that was so excited, especially the fans. It was great to see them cheering all around the track.”

More from Washington Post Sports:

Patrick finishes 38th in Daytona 500 debut, ending disappointing week

Matt Kenseth captures Daytona 500 after rain and fire delays

Juan Pablo Montoya crash sets off fire at Daytona

Patrick crashes in Nationwide Series race

Patrick crashes into wall during qualifying race

Patrick uses sexuality to build a brand

By  |  10:32 AM ET, 02/28/2012

 
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