Entering Thursday night’s Budweiser Shootouts, Patrick had yet to qualify for a spot in this year’s Daytona 500, and thanks to a crash in practice she was starting in the back of the field and needed to finish among the top 16 cars in order to guarantee a spot in NASCAR’s biggest race.
With just four laps remaining, Patrick appeared to be in good position, sitting in 8th place and just needing to finish the race. But then the one thing that Patrick needed to avoid happened. She lost control of her car and wrecked.
A replay showed that Deny Hamlin, the same driver that caused Patrick to wreck the day before in practice, got too close to Patrick, possibly bumping her as they entered the turn. Patrick’s car got loose and she spun out.
But the most important point here is that Patrick managed to avoid hitting the wall and she avoided any direct shots from other cars entering the fray.
Despite spinning out at nearly 200 mph, Patrick’s only noticably damage was to a rear fender which came loose and was flapping in the wind.
During the caution, Patrick came to the pits.
It was clear at this point that she would be able to stay in the race. However, she would be near the back of the pack and still needed to finish among the top 16.
After the caution, 19 cars were still in the race and Patrick was on the cusp, needing to beat at least three of them to the checkered flag with a beat up car.
There were just two laps to go.
But then Patrick got the break she needed. Kurt Busch (car No. 41), Patrick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, showed up in Patrick’s rearview mirror and used his car to help her move forward.
This was all Patrick needed to separate herself from the back of the pack.
After the race, Patrick made it clear that she might not be in the Daytona 500 without the assist from Busch.
“It shouldn’t go unsaid, Kurt was there for me,” Patrick told the media. “Without Kurt I wouldn’t have finished where I did.”
As they crossed the finish line, Patrick was 10th and was in the Daytona 500.
Despite securing her spot in the Daytona 500, Patrick was still upset after the race, confronting Hamlin and voicing her displeasure during a post-race interview.
Hamlin later took to Twitter to deny that his car ever touched Patrick’s and suggested during his own post-race interview that he was just trying to move forward and that Patrick’s car was “loose” and spun too easily.
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