Danica Patrick left IndyCar after seven seasons as the open-wheel series' record-holder for consecutive races running at the checkered flag: 50. She had finished her first two partial Nationwide Series seasons with just five of 25 races incomplete. But she continues to find trapdoors and falling pianos in her first full season in NASCAR's second-tier circuit.
Calamity struck early at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, when Patrick was collected in a two-car accident on the first turn of the first lap. It ruined her No. 7 Chevrolet and eventually sent her to a NASCAR-career-worst 43rd-place finish and sixth DNF of the season.
Patrick was approaching the initial right turn when Ryan Truex appeared to lock the brakes on his No. 20 Toyota and began sliding downhill on the grassy apron. He rolled into traffic backward and into the front of Patrick, who was boxed in on the inside racing line.
Patrick's crumpled hood was quickly fixed with sledgehammer bludgeoning and tape, but she discovered a lack of water pressure upon returning to the track, indicative of a broken radiator. After switching radiators, the crew discovered water spitting from the tailpipes, meaning the engine had been terminally damaged by overheating.
Patrick mulled how she could have prevented the collision, which cost her a precious opportunity on a road course, a burgeoning strength for her in NASCAR.
"I could see [Truex] get sideways and go across the grass,'' Patrick told reporters. "I was just following the car down into the corner, and, right at the last second [Truex] came up on the track right in front of me. I suppose in retrospect, I should have either slowed down or gone a bit wider. But it's so hard to know in those moments if they're going to come back out on the track and be fine, but he just stopped.
"The car in front of me got right through, but I didn't. I wish I would have done it differently. But that's the way accidents happen, and you just don't have much time to react."
That's become an uncomfortable norm for Patrick as she slogs through the summer toward a resumption of her partial Sprint Cup tutorial. She has failed to finish five of her past 12 races, with four of the decisive incidents being triggered by outside circumstances.
In her first DNF of the season, at Fontana, Calif., in March, a piece of steel pierced her radiator. A tire blew at Iowa in May, sending her into the wall and to a 30th-place finish. Sam Hornish Jr. nudged her into contact with Brad Sweet at Dover in June, when she finished 30th again. A multicar accident apparently triggered by a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. move soured what had been a solid run -- in which she led 13 laps -- at Daytona in July, sending her to a 21st-place result. Her pass-attempt collision with Reed Sorenson at Indianapolis was self-inflicted in a 35th-place finish in late July.
Even in the races she has finished, there have been pitfalls, such as her spin at Michigan as Austin Dillon passed, taking the air off her spoiler, and Jacques Villeneuve dumping her from the top five on the last lap at Road America.
Patrick entered Watkins Glen 10th in series points, with one top-10 finish and one pole this season. She fell unofficially to 11th, six points behind Joe Nemechek and 297 behind leader Elliott Sadler.
Spotter T.J. Majors, biding time as the team fruitlessly attempted to repair the car, was more concise in assessing the day than even his tweet required: "No luck whatsoever."