Danica Patrick’s NASCAR Career Ends in a Multi-Car Wreck at the Daytona 500

Take a look back at her top 5 career moments.

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Danica Patrick checked out of her NASCAR racing career yesterday, with her last stock car race ending ignominiously when she was caught up in one of the annoying multi-car crashes that afflict so-called restrictor plate racing on superspeedways like Daytona International Speedway.

“It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess,” she said, thankfully unharmed.

The good news is that, like the Czech snowboarder who grabbed a gold medal skiing in the women’s downhill, Danica can also switch disciplines and will conclude her career in Memorial Day’s Indy 500.

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By the end of Memorial Day weekend, Danica will officially be a professional fitness and nutrition guru, so we’ll take a quick look at her career highlights behind the wheel.

Danica racing in British Formula Ford, 2000.

1. Runner-Up At The Festival. 

Danica’s first professional highlight was technically a loss. In 2000 Danica was a 17-year-old competing in the British Formula Ford Championship. The season-ending Formula Ford Festival is sort of the developmental series championship for up-and-coming European racers. Danica had gone to Britain to prove herself against the best drivers of her generation, competing against the likes of future Formula One world champion Jensen Button and two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon. 

The best previous finish for an American driver was Indy 500-winner Danny Sullivan’s runner-up in 1974. In the end, Patrick did not win the Festival, but she did match Sullivan’s second-place finish, earning the respect of her peers and laying the foundation for her return to the U.S. to drive Indycars.

Danica takes to the streets in Formula Atlantic.

2. Danica returns to America. 

Ohio-native Patrick returned to America in 2002 with the goal of reaching the Indy 500 in neighboring Indiana. Her Formula Ford Festival results caught the eye of retired Indycar racer and team owner Bobby Rahal, who arrange for her to compete in the mid-level Formula Atlantic series, where she would get her first experience with winged downforce.

A third-place finish in the season championship sent her on her way.

3. Indycar win. 

Danica reached her dream of driving at Indianapolis in 2005 and was named Rookie of the Year in that race. Of course, race drivers are judged by wins, and Patrick finally scored her sole top-level win at the Twin-Ring Motegi in Japan in 2008.

4. Move to NASCAR. 

Patrick had always maintained that she was an open-wheel racer at heart, but in America, NASCAR is the dominant form of racing, so in 201 she made the switch to stock cars.

5. Pole position at Daytona. 

That move paid off when Danica qualified on pole for the 2013 Daytona 500, making her the first woman to do that and she was also the first to lead the race at Daytona. She ultimately finished eighth that day, which was a reasonable metaphor for her career.

So now she’s departing racing for a more relaxed life as an author, model and nutrition blogger. Just check out some of her recent instas.

And maybe keep an eye on the sidelines of Packers games next year for the retired racing driver in a Rogers jersey.