Danica Patrick's car slides down the track after a crash during the… (Jim Topper / Associated…)
Danica Patrick emerged unharmed after crashing her car hard on the last lap of her qualifying race Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
Racing in her first NASCAR Sprint Cup race ahead of Sunday's Daytona 500, Patrick got caught in a wreck and spun out before smacking an inside retaining wall on the backstretch.
"It happened really quick," she said. "When it gets down to the end of the race, everybody's on each other's doors really close. That's what happens. Unfortunately, I was part of it."
Patrick was among the top 10 before contact with Aric Almirola's Ford lifted her Chevrolet off its wheels and sent the car spinning. Already guaranteed a spot in Sunday's race, Patrick now will have to drive it in her backup car after the front end of her primary car was totaled in the wreck.
She joked after being released from the infield medical center that her backup car might even be faster than the one she drove Thursday and that the wreck might be a "blessing in big disguise."
After making a name for herself in Indy Car racing and dabbling in NASCAR's Nationwide and ARCA series the last couple of years, Patrick is now a full-fledged NASCAR driver. She is scheduled to compete in 10 Sprint Cup Series races for Stewart-Haas racing in addition to a full-time Nationwide slate.
Defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, Patrick's boss at Stewart-Haas, won Thursday's first qualifying race, with Michael McDowell and Robby Gordon earning spots in the Daytona 500.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.