Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 9, 2012

de la Bastide: Danica receives free pass

Indy 500 practice opens this weekend

By Ken de la Bastide
Local sports columnist

— Aside from appearing in “Go Daddy” commercials and in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, Danica Patrick is best known for having a short fuse.

During her years in the Izod IndyCar Series, Patrick had verbal confrontations with several drivers including Ryan Briscoe, Milka Duno and the late Dan Wheldon.

Now that she’s competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on a full-time basis, Patrick has brought her temper.

Earlier this year she got into a verbal confrontation with teammate Cole Whitt during the season-opening race at Daytona.

Patrick was upset that Whitt tried to bump draft with her and instead of gaining track position, Patrick crashed. She told Whitt to stay away from her in the future.

The latest incident took place last weekend at Talladega, one which could have injured fellow driver Sam Hornish Jr.

Coming to the checkered flag, Hornish drifted up the track and forced Patrick to scrap the outside retaining wall. Entering turn one, Patrick nudged the left rear of Hornish’s car, sending him into the outside retaining wall at approximately 160 miles per hour.

Hornish explained he couldn’t control his Dodge because of a tire deflating. Patrick wasn’t buying that on Saturday.

By Tuesday, she reportedly called Hornish and car owner Roger Penske and apologized. Her intent was not to wreck Hornish, but to show her displeasure. If the intent was not to wreck Hornish, why did she nudge his car on the left rear and not bumper-to-bumper?

NASCAR officials have indicated that Patrick would not be penalized for the action. Instead they will meet with the two drivers before the Darlington race this Friday.

Some have tried to compare Patrick’s actions to the Camping World Truck Series race in which Kyle Busch intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday during a caution period. Busch was sat down for the remainder of the weekend.

There really is no comparison. Busch has been racing in NASCAR for many years and this was not the first time he has been taken to the woodshed.

Patrick’s action didn’t deserve a suspension, but maybe NASCAR could have sent her a stronger message against endangering other drivers with venting on the track. At least she could have been placed on “double secret” probation.

In other racing news

• Practice opens this weekend for the Indianapolis 500 with cars taking to the track on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. It should be interesting to observe the newly designed cars at speed on the IMS oval and with the new engine package.

Track officials announced Tuesday that there are now 33 cars entered for the race. I suspect several more before qualifying starts on May 19.

• There are currently 27 cars entered for the 64th running of the Pay Less Little 500 on May 26. Former winners entered include Eric Gordon, Shane Cottle, Brian Tyler and Chet Fillip. Expect multiple-time winner Jeff Bloom to also be on hand.

• Anderson Speedway this Saturday is hosting the ARCA/CRA Late Model Sportsman and Street Stocks for the first of several visits in 2012. Both races normally produce plenty of action. Racing starts at 8 p.m.

• Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8580.