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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick bent with her hands on her knees in a Nationwide Series garage stall Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Minutes earlier, she had brought her No. 34 Chevrolet off the track after the engine shut off in Turn 3, bypassing pit road for the concrete stall now surrounded by crew and onlookers.
She assumed the problem was terminal.
When crewmen re-fired the Turner Scott Motorsports car three times, it appeared salvageable despite the performance problems and spikes in temperature she had experienced for much of the first 32 of the 120-lap race.
There's a lot of Cup guys out there running around, and hopefully it showed my ability to work through traffic and my ability to get to the front. Hopefully that'll help for tomorrow.” -- Danica Patrick
"I was pissed," Patrick said. "I was mad because I thought all I needed to do was switch to ignition switch B, but just before I walked over, they said it's something maybe a little bit more with the whole ignition system. It ran on the B switch, but they say that it probably wouldn't have really run like it needed to anyway. So that was me feeling like that car was still able to be out there, so I felt pretty bad."
Crew chief Mike Greci deemed the problem an ignition malady that would have to be fully diagnosed by Hendrick Motorsports engineers, from whom Turner leases its engines.
Patrick felt better. Sort of. Because otherwise her day had been shaping up as a carefree but productive preliminary to her start from the pole Sunday in the Daytona 500.
"I was given some really fun advice before I went out, which was, 'You go out and do what you want to win this race,' and that's fun to hear as a driver," Patrick said. "I was working with a lot of guys out there and staying toward the front. It would have been nice -- would have been another really good day.
"There's a lot of Cup guys out there running around, and hopefully it showed my ability to work through traffic and my ability to get to the front. Hopefully that'll help for tomorrow."
Patrick started 12th and took the lead from Sprint Cup team owner/teammate Tony Stewart and maintained it as much of the field pitted after an early caution. After maneuvering around the leaders for several laps, she was dumped in the draft when she was forced to disengage from behind Kurt Busch's bumper to cool an engine that was registering temperatures of around 260 degrees.
Slogging through the field in 29th place on Lap 29, Patrick asked if her lap times were slow, and her thinking was quickly confirmed over team radio. Three laps later, she pulled in.
There was also a lesson learned in not overdiagnosing a problem, Patrick said. She has had just one engine failure in NASCAR, after a piece of metal pierced her grille at Fontana, Calif., last season.
"Loss in RPM, loss in speed," she said. "Into [Turn] 3 and it just died. Seemed very much like & I haven't blown an engine. I think that says a lot about Hendrick. But it sure seemed like that's exactly how it would go. So I hastily came down into the garage instead of going down pit lane. Not sure really if it would have made much of a difference in the end, but it's a good lesson."