Danica Patrick crashes out of her final Indianapolis 500

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s racing career ended with a heavy impact in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Patrick, who became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 in 2005, lost control of her No. 13 Dallara-Chevrolet and slammed the Turn 2 wall on the 68th lap. She was able to walk to a waiting ambulance, which transported her to the track care center for a routine evaluation.

Today was really disappointing for what we were hoping for and what you want for your last race,” Patrick told ABC. “I’m very grateful for all of it. I just wish I could have finished stronger.

“I’m not really for sure what happened. There was a little lift in the middle. A little understeer back to it, and (the car) just swung.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Danica talks about her life after racing

She will finish 30th in the race, which will be her career worst at the 2.5-mile track. Patrick had six top 10s in eight Indy 500 starts, including a best finish of third in 2009. She led 19 laps in her ’05 debut at the Brickyard, finishing fourth.

Patrick said that was what “really launched” her career.

“I’ve had a lot of good fortune here,” she said. “I still had some good this month. It just didn’t come on race day, but we had some good moments.”

Patrick also was the first woman to lead a lap in NASCAR’s premier series in the 2013 Daytona 500, where she was the first female to capture a Cup Series pole position

Patrick wrecked in the final two races of her career. She finished 35th in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, her final NASCAR start.

Danica Patrick kisses Aaron Rodgers before the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

She also crashed and finished 37th in the Nov. 19, 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, her last race as a full-time driver.

Patrick had been enjoying a solid month at Indy after a few anxious moments in her first practice after ending a seven-year layoff from the Indy 500.

She seemed in good spirits on the starting grid before the race, laughing while standing beside her car with a small circle of family and friends that included her parents, her sister and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, her boyfriend.

“Let’s go, Danica!” a fan shouted during prerace ceremonies, bringing a smile from Rodgers and other members of the entourage.

Rahal determined to regain winning touch in 2019 IndyCar season

Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher, INDYCAR
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AUSTIN, Texas – Graham Rahal entered the room with a smile on his face and a chip on his shoulder.

It was IndyCar “Media Day” and Rahal wasn’t happy with the way last season went at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He was less happy with the fact some aren’t considering him a serious threat in 2019. He playfully chided with one media outlet for failing to mention his team as one to watch in 2019.

“We use that as motivation to show everybody how we are viewed,” Rahal said. “We are here to win.”

Rahal just turned 30 in January but is entering his 13thseason in big-time Indy car racing. He entered the 2007 Champ Car Series season when he was just 17. He missed his high school prom because he was racing at Houston.

“That was the luckiest day of my life,” Rahal said. “I didn’t have to go to the prom. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“Plus, I got my second career podium that weekend.”

Rahal drove to victory in his very first race in the combined IndyCar Series in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He was hailed as the “Poster Boy of Unification” and a future star. What followed was a seven-year drought before he captured his second-career win in a thrilling race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

He won two races in 2015, one in 2016 and two in 2017. He was expected to contend for victories and possibly the championship last year but struggled through a disappointing season and finished eighth in the standings.

“I’m looking forward for chance this year,” Rahal said. “Last year was a tough one for me and for the team. I’m looking forward to what my new engineer, Allen McDonald, has done so far. He is an accomplished engineer and brings a different mindset to our program this year from what we had last year. He and (fellow engineer) Eddie Jones are very close friends and that will help us from the standpoint they are on the same page.

“We needed a bit of life brought back to the team.”

Rahal believes his challenges are to get everything in order before the season starts. The team has defined the areas where it was lacking in 2019. The team needed to improve in research and development after starting behind last season.

“I’m excited for what I see, and I know in the end it will all pay off,” Rahal said. “It’s just a matter of when.

“There is a lot to be excited about for us. We are in a great position as a team. We have great sponsorship and that will allow us to push forward and do the things we need to do.”

Rahal believes at 30, he has a long time ahead of him to win races and championships and maybe even the Indianapolis 500. In order to reach those goals, however, Rahal’s team needs to regain the competitive level he displayed prior to last year.

“We’ve been fortunate to win six times,” Rahal said. “A lot of people come into this sport and never win. I fully recognize there is no reason we can’t win a lot. I don’t care what anybody writes, what anybody thinks – I really feel that when it comes to race day, we perform better than 99 percent of the other people out there.

“As a team and for myself, we have to qualify better. If we can qualify better, we’ll be a thorn in everybody’s side. We know the rear of our cars just aren’t good enough. When we need to find that extra tenth or two, it’s just not there but absolutely, we want to win.

“I don’t come here year after year to just drive around. Our sponsors don’t invest in us year after year to not see us win. We feel that. But our cars aren’t good enough and we know that.”

Rahal believes the team has identified the problems with the setup of its car. It has a deep engineering staff but hasn’t had a chance to develop the damper program and other important areas that provide a competition setup.

Takuma Sato, the winner of the 101stIndianapolis 500 when he was with Andretti Autosport, scored the team’s only victory in 2018 with a win in the Portland Grand Prix. The two are back this year and have built a respect for each other.

“He’s a good guy,” Rahal said of Sato. “Other than Helio Castroneves, Takuma is probably the happiest man on the planet. He’s a great guy and fits in well with our organization. We pride ourselves on being a family and he fits in extremely well to that.

“We need to do a better job for him as a team. He won a race last year, but we can both do better to win with both cars.

“The Andretti cars are the best right now and the Penske cars will be good. We have a lot of space to close up on those two teams but hopefully, we can do it.”