Column By: JEFF OLSON / INDYCAR – INDIANAPOLIS, IN – As Danica Patrick faced the media Sunday shortly after crashing out of the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center’s live audio feed of the ABC broadcast interrupted her.
“Is that like the Oscars where they play you off with music?” she joked.
Then her microphone malfunctioned, forcing her to move to the next one on the dais.
“If you take my mic away, I’ll leave,” she joked again. “I promise. I don’t really want to be here. I’m pretty sad. All right, I guess I’ll stop there. I will say, though, that for sure I’m very grateful for everybody for being able to finish it up like I wanted to. There are still a lot of great moments. A lot of great moments this year.”
Patrick, 36, ended her 14-year racing career with a crash on Lap 68 of the 200-lap race. She finished 30th in the 33-car race won by Team Penske’s Will Power.
Overall, Patrick competed in 307 races in the top levels of NASCAR and INDYCAR, becoming the first woman to win an INDYCAR race when she prevailed at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan in 2008. She also is the first woman to win a pole position in NASCAR’s top level when she started first in the 2013 Daytona 500.
Patrick said she was nervous before the start of the race, her eighth Indianapolis 500 but first in seven years.
“I was definitely nervous, but I found myself most of the time on the grid confused about what part of prerace we were in,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t remember this. Where is the ‘Taps’ and the anthem? But I had all of my people with me, so I was in pretty good spirits.”
Patrick joined INDYCAR in 2005, earning rookie of the year awards for the season and the Indy 500, when she became the first woman to lead the race. She posted a career-high third-place finish in the 2009 Indy 500, along with a career-high fifth in the final championship standings for the 2009 season.
She left INDYCAR after the 2011 season for NASCAR. After last season, she announced her retirement with plans to compete in this year’s Daytona 500 and Indy 500.
Patrick started seventh Sunday and was running 13th when her No. 13 GoDaddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet spun in entry to Turn 2 and struck the wall with its left side on the turn’s exit.
“I feel like it was pretty unexpected,” Patrick said. “On the other hand, the car was a little bit positive today. It was turning a little bit more than I wanted it to. I was having to chase it a lot.”
Patrick closed with one more joke directed at reporters.
“I’ll miss you, most of the time,” she said. “Maybe you’ll miss me, too.”
And with that, Patrick exited the media center and closed the books on a groundbreaking career.