Danica Patrick's first full season in the mile race at Daytona International Speedway, becoming just the second female to start first for a series event.
But the season-opener at Daytona quickly turned disastrous for Patrick when she crashed on lap 50. Patrick's new JR Motorsports teammate, Cole Whitt, a former Camping World Truck Series competitor, bumped her from behind. She slid down to the apron and then shot up the track before making contact with the turn three wall.
Patrick spent a majority of the race in the garage area for repairs on the right-side of her No.7 car. She wound up finishing 48 laps behind in 38th place, which marked her worst performance in four Nationwide races at Daytona.
"Wow, Daytona...yeah, we had quite a first week down there, but the good news is it's a long season, and this team is really strong," Patrick said. "I have a lot of fun with this group, starting at the top with [crew chief] Tony [Eury] Jr. It was so neat to see him smiling after we won the pole at Daytona. We know we're going to have our ups and downs on the track this year. That's just part of the learning process. My goal is to get better each and every week, and if I do that, we'll have many more ups than downs."
Patrick also wrecked in the Daytona 500 and the Gatorade Duel qualifiers for that race.
Whitt, a Nationwide rookie this year, finished fourth at Daytona.
"Obviously, the incident with the 7 [Patrick] still bothers me, but I've got to keep my head in the game, because it's a long season," he said. "Danica and I talked after the race. I wanted to let her and Tony Jr. know I was sorry. These teams at JR Motorsports are extremely tight, and it's an honor to be a part of it and an honor to be teammates with Danica."
Patrick is hoping to rebound in Saturday's 200-mile race at Phoenix International Raceway. Right now, she is 35 points behind leader Elliott Sadler, who finished second at Daytona.
James Buescher won the Daytona Nationwide race but is competing for the championship in the Truck Series this year. Buescher is running a limited Nationwide schedule for Turner Motorsports. He will race at Phoenix.
Patrick, a Phoenix resident, has three Nationwide starts so far at this one- mile track. Her best finish there is 17th, which came in February 2011.
Kyle Busch put on one of the most dominating performances in series history one year ago at Phoenix. Driving the No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Busch started on the pole and led all 200 laps for his fourth Nationwide win there.
This time, he'll try to defend his victory in his own Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment.
Busch's No.54 team is in its first full season of competition in Nationwide. He finished 18th at Daytona.
"That was a phenomenal job by the guys last week," Busch said. "We kind of battled back from being behind much of the day and showed we could be contenders at the end. Having a new race team and bringing new crew members together for the first time is always a little unsettling, but we showed this group works well under pressure, and hopefully we'll have the chance again to be leading in Phoenix."
Forty-five teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Bashas' Supermarkets 200.
Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, March 3. Race: Bashas' Supermarkets 200. Site: Phoenix International Raceway. Track: one-mile oval. Start time: 4:30 p.m. (et). Laps: 200. Miles: 200. 2011 Winner: Kyle Busch. Television: ESPN2. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.