DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick is out of the Nationwide race at Daytona International Speedway, and it might be because of a rookie mistake.
Patrick, who became the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole and will start on the pole for Sunday's Daytona 500, thought she had a blown engine Saturday.
Patrick had yet to blow an engine in her NASCAR career, but when her car shut off in Turn 3, she figured "that's exactly how it would go."
So she pulled the car into the garage instead of letting her crew diagnose the problem on pit road.
After all, a blown engine isn't fixable.
But shortly after Patrick did an interview with ESPN, her crew fired up the car, shut it off and fired it up again.
The engine, it seemed, was running just fine.
A look of horror came over Patrick's face. Stunned, she walked alone to the corner of the garage and put her hands on her temples, back facing the car.
Was the problem fixable after all? Could she simply have fixed the issue on pit road or switched to the backup ignition?
Suddenly, she seemed to be on the verge of tears. She bent over, hands on her knees and stared at the ground.
Later, though, she said her crew told her the problem might have been the entire ignition system and not just the primary switch.
That came as a relief, since there were several minutes of panic when she worried she might have pulled in the garage for no reason.
"A good lesson that if there was a potential fix at some point, you just always come down pit lane, get in your pit box and do absolutely everything possible to see if you can fix it," she said.
Scott Maxim, whose Hendrick Motorsports team provides motors to Patrick's Turner Scott Motorsports car, said it was too early to tell what happened to the ignition system. He studied it with a magnifying glass for several minutes and couldn't spot the problem.
The car may have been able to return to the track powered by the backup ignition, but Patrick said the crew told her "it probably wouldn't have run like it needed to anyway."
Her emotional reaction, she said, "was me feeling like that car still needed to be out there. I felt pretty bad."
Before the ignition trouble, Patrick had run very well. She hoped the Sprint Cup Series drivers who will run in the Daytona 500 noticed.
"I was given some really fun advice before you went: Do whatever you want to win this race," she said. "I was working with a lot of guys out there, staying toward the front. It would have been another really good day. ... Unfortunately, it ended early."
This car is not the same one she will use in the Great American Race.
Patrick started 12th in the 300-mile race that began at 1:15 p.m. ET.