Terry Renna/Associated Press file photo
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Danica Patrick was bummed after fading on the last lap of a historic Daytona 500.
Some kind words from owner Tony Stewart and race winner Jimmie Johnson picked up her spirits a little.
“To have somebody like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson tell me that on some level I made good decisions out there at the very end was a really nice thing for them to say,” Patrick said from Phoenix International Raceway on Friday.
“It makes me feel a little better. I still feel like I want to have a better plan in the future, but in that moment (they said) I had made some decisions, so it was appreciated.”
In her first full season in a Sprint Cup car, Patrick became the first woman to be on the pole at the Daytona 500 and raced near the front all day, leading five laps. Coming around on the final lap, she had Johnson and Greg Biffle in front, leaving her in position to make a run for the win.
Instead, Patrick got bogged down on the outside behind Biffle and was passed by drivers on the low side, fading from third to eighth.
In her postrace meeting with Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, Patrick was told she made the right move and probably would have lost even more ground if she had tried something.
“I thought she did a great job last week,” Stewart said at PIR. “She played a very, very smart race because it’s very easy to get overanxious and want to do better than where you’re at and cause yourself to have a worse day. She displayed a lot of patience, and that’s really hard to do. So I thought she did a great job.”
Patrick also received some more encouragement from Johnson after congratulating the five-time series champion on his second Daytona 500 win.
“He said I did a nice job, too,” Patrick said. “I said I wish I had a better plan, but thank you, and I have a lot to learn. He said that the two wins he had, he didn’t have a plan, and sometimes you just have to take it on the fly and work with what happens in the moment.”