Danica Patrick ended her IndyCar career yesterday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Izod IndyCar World Championships season finale.
Her final IndyCar race, however, was marked by disaster when a 15 car pile-up occurred, claiming the life of other driver Dan Wheldon. Patrick narrowly escaped the accident.
"There was debris everywhere, you could smell smoke and see the billowing smoke," Patrick said in a live ABC interview. The race was not restarted after the accident, but other drivers did five slow laps around the track to honor Wheldon.
Danica Patrick decides on NASCAR – leaves IndyCar for 2012 – VIDEO
Patrick’s mood had been “upbeat” all weekend as she prepared for her final race. She had been racing IndyCars for seven years before deciding to re-focus on racing stock cars fulltime with NASCAR with a team owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Patrick ran a notable career. In 2005 she was named rookie of the year. She was the first woman racer to win a race when she claimed victory at the Japan 300 in 2008. For the past six years, she has been voted Most Popular Driver, and is expected to win it again for 2011 when the results are announced next month. In 2009, she placed third in the Indy 500, the highest finish ever for a woman.
Her current team owner Michael Andretti expects that her presence will be missed throughout the IndyCar industry. “Danica did bring, I think, new fans to our sport and hopefully those fans aren't here only because of Danica," Andretti said to ESPN news. "I'm sure she brought fans that normally wouldn't have watched it but now have become fans of IndyCar racing."