Crash ruins Danica Patrick's best NASCAR Nationwide race yet; Kyle Busch wins in Fontana
Kyle Busch went on to win the CampingWorld.com 300, his record 12th Nationwide win of the season. Busch also is a top driver in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series.
The popular Patrick, an IndyCar driver trying her hand in NASCAR stock-car racing's second-tier Nationwide Series, qualified 14th in her No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, her best starting spot in the eight Nationwide races she's run so far.
When the field restarted after a caution period with only 11 laps left in the 150-lap race, Patrick was running 12th and on the lead lap with Busch and other front-runners.
But on the next lap, she was shuffled back to 17th in heavy traffic and hit from behind by James Buescher on the back straightaway, causing her car to spin sideways and slam into the wall. Two other cars, including one driven by former off-road motorcycle champion Ricky Carmichael, also were involved.
Patrick was not hurt, but she finished 30th in the 43-car field. Her average finish in seven previous Nationwide races was 31st.
"It was a pretty big hit," Patrick said of the wreck. "Obviously we had a good day. I just wanted to follow through with it" with a strong finish.
Patrick acknowledged earlier this week that she was struggling in NASCAR and would welcome a driving coach. But she showed marked improvement Saturday.
"This [result] should have been much better," she said. "I was passing good cars. I know in my heart I was having a good day, so we'll just take that."
Photo: Kyle Busch makes a pit stop in his No. 18 Toyota during the CampingWorld.com 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Credit: Harry How/Getty Images