As she preps for final NASCAR start, Danica Patrick says 2017 finale felt like her last race

Danica Patrick looks over her car before a NASCAR auto racing practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Danica Patrick’s final NASCAR race will be next Sunday’s Daytona 500. But she said Saturday that her final start for Stewart-Haas Racing less than three months ago felt like the end of her NASCAR career.

Patrick made the announcement during the final race weekend of the 2017 season that she would contest the 2018 Daytona 500 and the 2018 Indianapolis 500 before ending her career as a driver. The news came weeks after she revealed she wouldn’t be returning to SHR for the 2018 season.

Patrick’s deal for the Daytona 500 is with Premium Motorsports. The team typically fields unfunded cars that run at the back of the Cup Series field but her effort will be fully-financed by longtime sponsor GoDaddy. The company is re-partnering with Patrick for the final two races of her career.

“I know [Homestead] wasn’t the last one, but just with the announcement, there was so much loaded emotion in that weekend that to me, that had a lot of a feel for kind of the end on some level, of racing in the Cup Series,” Patrick said. “I say I’ll be fine and I’m excited and I mean like, okay, everybody in the room, imagine when you leave here on Sunday, you don’t have anything to do really for a couple of months. Seems pretty exciting, doesn’t it? Right? That’s how I feel.

“But when I think next Sunday comes, I’m sure I’ll be a lot more retrospective or introspective and emotional about the finality of it and you know; just have a little bit more perspective. But right now, I’m fine. I’m good. I’m excited about it all. I made the decision last year that this is what I was good with. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been doing it. So, I’ve had a lot of time to mentally transition. And that transition started last year.”

Patrick broke down and cried while she was announcing the full-time end to her Cup Series career. Her tenure with Stewart-Haas wasn’t filled with success; Patrick had seven top-10 finishes in 190 career Cup Series starts.

In a somewhat fitting end to her 2017 season, Patrick’s final start ended when she hit the wall after a cut tire. Patrick failed to finish 11 of 36 races a year ago. Ten of those DNFs were because of crashes.

Not long after the season ended, Patrick provided a glimpse into what her post-racing career could look like. Her fitness book “Pretty Intense” was released in December. Racing has been the platform that gave Patrick her starpower, but Patrick’s starpower has transcended racing. She said she’ll just be an ‘average’ race fan after her career is over. And that’s probably fair. She’ll likely be too busy to sit down and watch random races at Pocono and Dover anyway.

“I don’t really watch a lot of racing when I’m still racing,” Patrick said. “I mean, obviously, I was in 38 of them or 37 or sometimes 36 [in a season], but I’m sure I will watch some of it when it’s somewhat convenient or when it’s a big one. I imagine myself to be just like an average fan. Like that watches when it’s on. If I’m busy traveling or in an airplane or going somewhere or doing an appearance or whatever it is, then I can’t watch it and I’m sure I will be interested every single weekend as to how it went and the results for sure and when the big ones come along I will want to make time for it. “

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!