Following a hard hit entering Turn 1 at Auto Club Speedway, Danica Patrick is in line for a possible penalty from NASCAR.
Patrick made contact with Kasey Kahne with 80 laps remaining in the Auto Club 400 on Sunday afternoon, slamming the outside wall on the frontstretch. The impact was hard enough to send her No. 10 Chevrolet airborne, regulating her to a 38th-place finish in the 39-car field.
“We were on a restart, and I had a run on him so I went down low,” Patrick said. “If you get too close to them [a car you’re trying to clear] then it will drag you both back. I was going low. I saw him chase me down the track, and then the next thing I know I was getting spun up the track. I was passing him. He was behind me in the right rear.
“I don’t know what kind of day he was having. I just heard he was a lap down, actually. I feel bad if he felt like he was put in a position to have to be that desperate a lap down. … I was having a pretty good recovery day, kind of like last weekend. I was just running good race laps and on the lead lap at the end of the race back up into the top 20 from a bad starting position.”
Kahne was called to the NASCAR hauler after the incident, but Patrick was not.
“I passed her in [Turns] 3 and 4, and then she had the momentum off the top and went back under me going down the front stretch,” he explained. “So I went just to kind of catch a side draft to make sure I was in position getting into Turn 1, and it didn’t hold me up when I got there because I was the one coming, and I just got too close and the car was moving around and we hit and she had a bad wreck.
“I felt really bad because it was far from anything than just trying to hold my position. I’ve never had an issue with Danica at all. It was an avoidable accident in the middle of the straightaway that was far from anything but just trying to hold my position that I had just gained.”
After the wreck, Patrick walked on a hot track, meaning cars were still circling the track. Additionally, she left safety workers and her car, which puts her in line for a penalty, according to the NASCAR rule book.
Patrick was seen walking onto the apron near the banking in the middle of Turns 1 and 2 just moments after the accident. She waved her hands in frustration, a notion that has been seen multiple times over the years.
NASCAR implemented a rule to prevent drivers from walking onto the racetrack during caution periods days after Kevin Ward, Jr. was struck and killed by Tony Stewart at a New York dirt track in Aug. 2014.
“California is a wide racetrack, but we have to make sure that first and foremost the rules are in place to keep the drivers safe,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Vice President, said during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR radio Monday. “We want to review everything that took place and see if there is anything we need to react to. We want to be liberal in terms of allowing drivers to express their opinion. But there is absolutely a line. We have that set out in our behavioral guide lines.”