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The Early Lead
Posted at 04:16 PM ET, 02/23/2012

Daytona 500: Danica Patrick crashes into wall during qualifying race (Video)


Danica Patrick's car slides down the track after a crash during the first of two NASCAR Daytona Duel 150 qualifying auto races on Thursday. (Chuck McQuinn Chuck McQuinn - Associated Press)
Danica Patrick said she was looking forward to her return to pack racing this weekend when she makes her NASCAR Spring Cup Series debut this weekend at the Daytona 500.

But after a experiencing the full force of a scary wreck during the final lap of Thursday’s Ga­tor­ade Duels qualifying race, Patrick’s excitement may morph into nerves when she lines up for Sunday’s race.

Aric Almirola bumped Patrick and sent her car skidding across the infield and into an inside wall. The violent impact lifted her No. 10 Chevrolet off its wheels, but Patrick climbed out of the car uninjured.

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

Tony Stewart won the 150-mile race, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr.

But the focus — as it has been all week — will once again be on Patrick, who had already secured a qualifying spot in the field for Sunday’s 500. She wasc scored 16th in the 25-car field.

She smartly lifted her arms from the wheel before impact, to avoid potential injury, experienced she gained during her IndyCar Series career.

“It happened really quick,” Patrick said. “When it gets down to the end of the race, everybody’s on each other’s doors really close. That’s what happens. Unfortunately, I was part of it.”

When asked about her chances to win NASCAR’s biggest race earlier this week, Patrick replied: “Do I think I can win the Daytona 500? Yeah.” And after Thursday’s wreck, she remains confident.

“We were looking to finish honestly,” Patrick said. “I felt comfortable. It was just a matter of getting into the right line with the right people. I'm just bummed out. We only had two corners to go.”

Will the crash affect Patrick’s driving on Sunday? What do you think?

More from Washington Post Sports:

Patrick gears up for Daytona 500 debut

Tony Stewart wins 1st Daytona qualifying race, Patrick crashes

By  |  04:16 PM ET, 02/23/2012

 
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