Danica Patrick waves to the crowd at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. File photo: Charles Krupa / AP

Homestead, Florida - Danica Patrick climbed out of her burning, smoke-filled, wrecked race car and trudged toward pit lane, pulling off her gloves and helmet in frustration before being taken to the infield care centre.

It was a much earlier exit than Patrick wanted in her final Nascar race as a full-time driver.

''There's still racing in my future,'' she said. ''I still have a thousand miles to go.''

Indeed, the ''Danica Double'' awaits - but the thought of future endeavors did little to improve another disappointing day. Patrick finished 37th in her final race with Stewart-Haas Racing. She bowed her head outside the care centre before answering questions about her season finale and her future.

''It just seemed like every time things were going better, something would happen - my fault or sometimes not my fault,'' she said. ''This was just another case of that. It was fun for a little while there at the end. It was absolute misery for the first stint.''

Danica Patrick wipes away tears as she announces her retirement from full-time racing. Picture: Darryl Graham / AP

Patrick started the weekend by announcing she plannned to retire from full-time racing, holding an emotional news conference that began with a tearful goodbye. The season finale prompted more of the same.

''It was a little bit emotional, but I've been working through levels of that,'' she said. ''I was just kind of looking forward to getting in the car finally, actually.''

She will be back behind the wheel in February for the Daytona 500, the final race of her Nascar career. She also will return to IndyCar in May 2018 and drive in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in seven years.

Asked if there's a silver lining in being able to return for the Daytona 500, Patrick paused several seconds before mustering an answer.

''Yeah, sure,'' she finally said. ''Let's hope I don't end up in the medical centre.''

Patrick, 35, is the only woman to lead laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. She competed in the Indy 500 from 2005 to 2011, with third in 2009 her highest finish, and she was the first woman to lead laps there when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings in the past two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick has never scored a top-five finish in Nascar and has had only seven top 10s in 189 career starts.

Patrick has not revealed which team she will drive for in 2018, but surely a package deal with the same owner and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing's most marketable driver.

''I have a higher chance of crashing at Daytona than I do here," she said, "so I don't know if I feel like, 'Well, that's my shot.' I have one left and then another one after that, which is the Indianapolis 500.''

AP