Don’t Expect Patrick To Get Parked For Darlington
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Today is Tuesday, the day of the week which has traditionally been used by NASCAR officials to make announcements of penalties stemming from on-track or in-garage incidents from the weekend before.
I really do not expect on this Tuesday to hear that Danica Patrick is being issued any type of penalty for what some are considering a blatant and dangerous hit on Sam Hornish Jr. on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.
I do not expect that even though other drivers have been issued penalties – in some cases, very harsh penalties – after being involved in very similar incidents in the past.
And fans, you have every right to wonder, why that is.
The Patrick/Hornish incident occurred on Nationwide Series day at Talladega. It did not happen during the race, but after the race had officially ended.
After Hornish, a former IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500-winner, crossed the finish line, Patrick moved in from behind, “hooked” the rear bumper of Hornish’s Penske Racing Dodge, and sent it nose-first into the outside retaining wall.
Patrick was apparently upset that Hornish “pinched her off” just prior to the hooking incident. Hornish, however, had a flat tire and that caused him to move up the track in front of Patrick.
NASCAR officials opted not to immediately summon either Patrick or Hornish to the series hauler for a talk – something that they often do after such incidents.
After tracking her down in the Talladega infield, Hornish tried to explain the flat tire thing to Patrick. On Monday, on a SPEED television network program, Hornish told the host how that went.
Hornish said, “I went up to her and said, ‘Hey I had a right-front tire going down.’ She basically told me I was full of it. I said, ‘Just watch the tape. You’ll understand it once you see it.’ ”
Apparently Patrick did see the tape and did call Hornish to apologize. She also reportedly apologized to Nationwide Series director Joe Balash.
That seems to be enough for NASCAR. A series spokesman said that officials will “talk” to both drivers before the racing begins at Darlington this weekend; just to make sure everything is cool between the them and their teams.
On Monday, Patrick told USA Today writer Nate Ryan that she did not mean to put Hornish into the wall with the 160 mph bump – that she just wanted to send him a message – and that the incident was “blown out of proportion”.
Interesting comment when you consider the circumstances and the source.
Patrick put Hornish into the wall on the same afternoon that a head-on collision with an inside retaining wall resulted in a scary crash and injury to Nationwide driver Eric McClure. McClure had to be extricated from his car and air-lifted to a hospital.
Patrick vs. Hornish comes six months after Kyle Busch was parked for a Nationwide Series race and a Sprint Cup race for intentionally ramming Camping World Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday Jr. into a wall during a caution at Texas Motor Speedway because Hornaday had pinched and grazed Busch shortly before.
No, absolutely none of these incidents – or any others over the years – are identical. Different people involved, different series, different backgrounds, different circumstances, different ultimate outcomes.
But they do underline one very important thing; all show that metal boxes moving at very high speeds are inherently very dangerous and that they should never be used to make points.
Patrick, like Busch, has a short fuse. She showed that in IndyCar, she has put it on display in NASCAR. And, as with Busch, a lot of eyes are on her, a lot of hope has been pinned to her, a lot of money is being spent on her.
And, as opposed to Busch, things are not going well for her right now. She has not come close to winning a race and she has an average career finish of 22nd in Nationwide.
And, as opposed to Busch, television and other media have fawned over her and issued her free passes (not in any way her fault) even though she is no longer a pristine NASCAR newbie but a 30-year-old who has 33 NNS races (almost a full season’s worth) and 133 major open-wheel starts listed on her bio.
And while television commentators and journalists and fans can afford to had out both passes and summonses to drivers and teams they have become attached to/repulsed by, NASCAR cannot.
The thought here was that parking Busch for the Texas incident was way out of line.
But the thought here, also, is that upper echelon NASCAR officials need to come out – if not on this Tuesday – then early during the Darlington weekend (she is scheduled to drive in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races) and pointedly and publicly condemn Patrick’s behavior at Talladega.
The belief here is that a blossoming of the Patrick storyline would be wonderful for NASCAR as a whole – but not at the expense of fairness and the series’ crediblity.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments