Monday, May 07, 2012

COMMENTARY: Danica Still Has Some Learning To Do

Danica Patrick still has some learning to do.

The former Indy Car star has transitioned to stock cars on a full-time basis this season, running the complete NASCAR Nationwide Series championship schedule, in addition to a challenging, part-time effort on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Like most rookies, her results have been mixed, with solid finishes on larger tracks and less-encouraging results at the shorter venues.

Saturday was a good day for Patrick. She ran in the lead draft throughout the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway, and was in contention for the win until being shuffled out of the draft on a late-race restart. Contact with fellow  Indy Car alum Sam Hornish, Jr., compounded the agony, leaving Patrick’s Chevrolet a disappointing 13th at the drop of the checkered flag.

After the race, Patrick hit Hornish from behind on the cool down lap, turning him nearly head-on into the wall and triggering a post-race dustup between the two former open wheel stars.  

“I’m mad to get wrecked after the race,” said a seething Hornish afterward. “I had a right-front tire go down coming off Turn 4 from earlier contact. (Joe Nemechek) and I got together and it started slowly going down. Coming to the tri-oval… I couldn’t turn and couldn’t keep it down.

“I was doing everything I could do (to avoid Patrick)," he said. "I was trying to wave off Elliott Sadler, to get him to quit pushing me. I couldn't hold it down, and I ended up getting in the wall before we got to the start-finish line."

Hornish confronted Patrick after the race, expressing unhappiness with being wrecked after checkered flag “while we were still going 160 mph.” He gave his version of the animated, post-race conversation with Patrick, saying she accused him of intentionally blocking her on the restart. “She said, 'Oh, I know your style,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm going to drive into the tri-oval wall way before the start-finish line to prove (my) point.'

“I don’t know,” said Hornish. “She's got her head a little bit mixed up about what's going on out there, I guess."

“I’ve known Sam for a really long time,” countered Patrick, “and I know what to be ready for around him. I don’t know what happened… (and) I don’t know (if it was personal). He apologized, so I suppose it wasn’t.”

She also expressed frustration at being left out of the draft in the final laps, saying, “I have to get my arms wrapped around some more friends out there, so I can have more people want to work with me and go to the front. I've got a fast car.”

Patrick’s frustration is understandable. Unfortunately, it is also unrealistic.

No matter how hard she tries, Patrick cannot simply stamp her feet and demand the instantaneous respect of her fellow competitors.  At tracks like Daytona and Talladega, she must prove – over and over again -- that she is a stable, trustworthy, levelheaded performer in the draft. Incidents like Saturday’s do little to further that effort.

Like it or not, she must accept that in NASCAR, contact is part of the game. This is not the IZOD Indy Car Series, where open wheels and minimal bodywork make even the slightest contact a potentially deadly situation.  Fenders get creased in NASCAR, and while not every incidence of car-to-car contact rises to the level of attempted murder, intentionally sticking someone in the fence at 160 mph – especially after the checkered flag – is no way to make friends.

In Indy Car, Patrick was rightfully viewed as a veteran. In NASCAR, she has not yet earned that status. While possessing unquestionable talent behind the wheel, she is also developing a reputation as a finger-pointer; a driver who consistently calls-out fellow competitors while accepting little or no measure of blame for her own on-track incidents. If she really wants to be accepted in the NASCAR garage, she needs to talk less and listen more, lowering the volume and avoiding the urge to tell drivers with exponentially more experience how to do their jobs.  


  1. Good for you Godfather!!! Probably the only one to tell it like it is.

  2. What other incidents have occurred this year that she had "the urge to tell drivers with exponentially more experience how to do their jobs?" Maybe I'm missing something, but I can't think of one instance (even after being put in the wall numerous times). Moody, leading up to this year you were one of, if not the most, levelheaded folks about Danica. And while I'm not a huge DP fan, this article seems unnecessarily biased. And the choice of words in the line, "Patrick cannot simply stamp her feet and demand the instantaneous respect of her fellow competitors" is very interesting. I'm not sure I've ever, for as long as I've been following you, heard you use the phrase "stamp his/her feet."

    All that said, I agree that she's not doing much to enhance her relationships in the NW series. But, then again, neither did Brad Keselowski and after a couple years of turmoil/controversy, he's become one of the most respected drivers in the garage.

    So, while I agree with your general sentiment, I respectfully disagree with the tone of the article and what appear to be a couple unsubstantiated generalizations.

    Either way, much appreciation for your contributions.

    Landon Chapman

    1. Chappy, I remain open minded about Danica. I think she has the talent to make it in NASCAR, but not without learning to give as well as she takes on the race track. Ask her JR Motorsports teammate, Cole Whitt about her willingness to call out other drivers. Cole has considerably more stock car experience than she does, but got chopped into tiny little pieces after their tangle at Daytona.

    2. Point taken.

      Very much appreciate posting my comment and providing a response, as you obviously had no obligation to do so.

      Will be listening, as usual, at 3PM.

  3. I'm not sure about rightfully being seen as a veteran in IndyCar other than in time served. The reputation you speak of that she's getting in NASCAR, she sort of had all the time in IndyCar. There's plenty of video on YouTube you can look up for that.

    Stomping feet, running down the pits to someone else's team, Miss Pouty-face all the time, blaming real racing veterans for driving poorly, throwing her CREW under the bus (during Indy qualifying nonetheless). She's a whiner and lets face it, the only race she won during her IndyCar days was with only 2/3rds of the regular field.

    Enjoy her, I'm happy she's gone from IndyCar. The women who are racing now, understand and get it and are all earning their status. (Katherine Legge, Simona de Silvestro!) Danica never could have lived up to the class that Sarah Fisher had and especially now that Sarah is an owner.

  4. I love you for saying what I've been thinking from the start. She yells at everyone else but doesn't take any of the blame. And the move she did on Saturday as absolutely uncalled for, especially after the red flag in the same race.

  5. After watching the replays several times including live on TV, I think Sam Hornish Jr. made a mistake when he decided to continue at full speed into the tri-oval despite having a blown right front tire which put Danica into the outside wall.

    With that said, after the checkers, its better to wait for another day to get your point across than hitting someone and turning them into the wall. Don't get me wrong, Hornish deserved the hit, but not the best move and going throw NASCAR or him would have been better.

    If there is a penalty, I believe NASCAR should penalize both Hornish for his reckless regard for others when he headed off into the tri-oval with a blown tire. You have to respect your competitors (same goes for Reutimann and Baldwin at Martinsville Cup race, RESPECT). And Patrick for her role.

    Penalty should be a 6-10 race probation, fine and if either one steps out again, they have been warned and bigger penalty will come.

    Welcome to NASCAR racing.

  6. Anonymous12:19 PM

    The main thing she HAS to learn is that NASCAR is one of the oldest,and most close nit good ole boys clubs around.She might fit in,but she will NEVER break it up.If that is what she has in mind,she better go back to IZOD.

  7. I understood she was the same way in open wheel driving.

  8. Danica Patrick has the potential to be a good driver. Maybe even a great driver. SOMEday. I have watched her, and wanted her to do well. But it seems nearly every time she gets on the track and has an incident it's "somebody elses' fault". I really want her to do well, but as it was said in the article....if she doesn't quit talking and start listening it's never going to happen. My dad and I never got along well when I was growing up, but one thing he always said still stays with me today: "You can't learn anything if you're running your mouth". One final thing, then off my soap box. I hope Danica understands soon that respect is earned, not demanded. I know she has the potential to be a great driver, if she will settle down. There was another "wild child" out there not too long ago (Kyle something-or-other), and he is coming along nicely, since he calmed down and started listening. That's my nickel's worth. Thanks for the great commentaries, Dave!

  9. Anonymous12:34 PM

    She needs to be punshied just like nascar did to kyle busch, Wht is good for one is good for the other, but I doubt nascar will do anything to her.

  10. Great read Dave (as always ),I agree. I believe she will come into her own. A quote from my (late) father seems to fit here. " experience is something you gain right after you really need it""........

  11. Anonymous1:16 PM

    And this event is different from Kyle's incident in what way? End of race? Oh right, Danica, I forgot. And GoDaddy is pulling it'sponsorship? Oh they're not? And NASCAR is suspending her for a couple of races? Oh, they aren't?

    I forgot, it's Danica, not Kyle, silly me.

    Doug from NJ

    1. Its different simply because this is the first time she did anything .... also it didn't effect the race either ..... Kyle has a ton of incidents leading to the suspension. Put your fandom. Aside and look at the facts.

  12. Tony in OH1:27 PM

    I'd have to hear how she said it to fully grasp the comment, but reading it, I don't find anything auspicious. It reads to me like her saying what every driver says about RP racing. That she needs to make some friends. The difference is if your interpreting that as a friendly arm around the shoulder or neck or you're interpreting it as a choke hold.

    I'd disagree that fencing someone after a race is going to do anything to impede the respect she gets during a race. If the scenario had been different (if Hornish hadn't taken her into the wall) and the action was unprovoked, then I would agree. And while we're certainly sensitive about cars being sent up the track into the wall like Hornish was, it does nothing to impact the respect (help in the draft) that a driver is given. Ask Carl. Ask Tony. Ask Kyle. Drivers will draft with Satan if it will pick them up positions.

    Indeed contact is part of the game. And she's accepted plenty of it. In general one would begin to question how much of it is part of the game when you've ended up on the hook as many times as she has through no fault of her own in a relatively small number of races. More specifically, she got edged up across three lanes (as marked by the stripes) into the wall. Just as Sam is in a position to nose into the wall himself, he miraculously is able to get the car to make a sharp turn back to the left? Sitting on my couch it's hard to believe that. Sitting in her seat, there's no way in hell I'd believe that it wasn't intentional and certainly wouldn't buy the excuse he gave after the race.

    It's a strange contrast, on the one hand Danica not being willing to be pushed around on the track is a detriment and on the other hand, Joey Logano spending at least two, arguably three, years allowing others to push him around on the track is a large contributor to why so many (including Godfather) think his seat is in danger.

  13. Tony in OH1:28 PM

    Lemme add. You could be right in your overall analysis, but I don't think the events that closed out Talladega aren't the evidence that supports it.

  14. Excellent view godfather! My thoughts were that her actions towards hornish happened Just about 20 minutes after a fellow competitor was just airlifted out of the joint!! I was hoping someone was gonna bring this to light.

  15. Anonymous12:20 AM

    I understand Kyle's suspension being a "history of work" I also understand "racing history" is some of what gets you approved to race NASCAR. Now why doesn't her "overall history" apply to this? It's probably a dead horse by now on air, she needs to at least be on double secret probation. And if anything happens in the amount of time double secret probation lasts(ask tony Stewart, I don't know how long it normally is) she needs full fledged probation for a few months