(Patrick and Busch got wadded up early in Monday night's Daytona 500 - Getty Images)
Monday's "Great American Race" was anything but great for a number of drivers making their Sprint Cup debuts with new race teams.
Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger and Kasey Kahne made up one quartet that opened the season with disappointing results.
Patrick was swept up into her third crash of Speedweeks when she got clipped by Jimmie Johnson in the lap two melee that broke out on the frontstretch. She was credited with a finish in position 38even after coming back on track later with a severely damaged car to make some extra laps.
“Any lap that I turn is progression, that’s for sure,” Patrick said. “That’s why I was so proud of everyone working so hard. They were working hard to get me back on the track. Was there much to gain as far as position? No. What there was to gain was for me to get the experience of running out there. We ran in packs for a while. The car is a little bent up. Honestly, it didn’t feel perfect. So as it got later and later in the race, I didn’t want to have an influence on it. I didn’t want something to happen to it or break and shoot across the track."
Busch was also swept up in that early race altercation and like Patrick soldiered on later with a battered Phoenix Racing Chevrolet trying to make at least a statement for his new organization.
"It was important to not get a DNF for this team to show how much we're all in this together," said Busch. "Not what we wanted for sure but still proud of the effort."
Allmendinger capped a rough Speedweeks that included a crash with his teammate Brad Keselowski earlier in the week with a tough official debut for Penske Racing. Allmendinger's problems took place on pit road in one of the race's many bizarre twists.
“A tire fell off a car that was struggling in front of us on pit road, he stopped – and I ran into him,” a disappointed Allmendinger said. “Our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger ran well and it was fast, but we have a 34th-place finish to show for it. It (stinks) because the guys did a good job. It was a just a frustrating night for us, but we’ll bounce back strong at Phoenix.”
Kahne is also hoping to have a better weekend in Phoenix, where he won last year for Red Bull Racing, than he did in Daytona. He too had issues on pit road when he sustain damage in an incident that was compounded when Kahne got involved in one of the two late race multi-car accidents.
"Disappointed for sure," said Kahne after finishing in position 29. "Still excited about this team though but ready to head to Phoenix."