Home / Cup Series / Voice of Vito: Defending, Making Sense of Danica Patrick’s Post-Wreck Pouting
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Voice of Vito: Defending, Making Sense of Danica Patrick’s Post-Wreck Pouting

NASCAR, like most sports, has had its share of polarizing personalities over the last few years. They typically are welcomed to the sport with open arms by fans and those within the sport, championing a new fresh face that can upset the current guard and maybe become the next household name.

Back in the day it was Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt. More recently Kyle Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick have rounded out that category. While drivers often get a hot or cold response, it’s typically because they’re beating somebody else’s favorite driver or standard bearer.

Then there’s other reasons all together that have nothing to do with performance, and we might be welcoming a new member of this exclusive club: Danica Patrick.

During her post-wreck comments during the red flag of the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway, Patrick launched into a lament that seemed to go on way too long, particularly as the images preceding her interview were that of a Sawzall slicing through the roof of Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Ford. She was reviled on social media for her perceived insensitivity, mentioning her concern for Almirola almost as an afterthought, following the bemoaning of breaking brake rotors with 300 lbs. of pressure, while Joey Logano seemed to acutely aware of how grave the situation may be, bordering on becoming emotional.

While it may not be a popular view, I’m willing to give Patrick the benefit of the doubt on this one.

It was the first time in almost three years that she had a car that was remotely competitive at a track other than a restrictor plate race, and she was working towards the front, racing drivers who win with great regularity – and passing them in the process. Knowing that racecar drivers by nature have to have a bit of a “me me me” mentality about them, and having stood in Victory Lane a week earlier with her boyfriend and fellow competitor Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the pressure of not performing up to expectations for going on five seasons is starting to revel cracks in her exterior.

That and she just got turned head-on into the wall at 208 mph.

Whether she passed whatever concussion protocol she was put through or could hop up and down on one foot and not fall over is irrelevant. You hit something head-on with that much ferocity and burst into flames, it will probably elicit not the most desirable nor expected response. Coupled with comments made only a few weeks ago that she doesn’t want to do something if she’s miserable doing it, the passion for her profession is clearly past the best by date.

Openly stating the realization of your own mortality and foreshadowing with, “one of these times, these wrecks aren’t going to go so good for me….” led me to take a look back at some of her (many) head on collisions that looked as bad, if not worse, than the impact she endured Saturday night.

2012 Gatorade Duel – Daytona International Speedway

Here she was sent head-on into the backstretch wall by – oh irony – Almirola. This was to be Patrick’s first Cup Series event in anticipation of her debut in the Daytona 500. Welcome to NASCAR!

2012 Subway Jalapeno 250 Daytona International Speedway – XFINITY Series

https://youtu.be/KsCLVuJxvCw?t=180

Another head-on Daytona impact,  and this time her head appears to hit the steering column after it shoots straight upward following contact with the wall.

2013 Subway Fresh Fit 500 – Phoenix International Raceway

A blown right front tire at a bad angle sends her into wall, not unlike what Matt Kenseth experienced earlier this year

2016 Auto Club 400 – Auto Club Speedway

Similar to her crash on Saturday night, she gets hooked head on into the wall. I know some question her ability, but you’d be hard pressed to pin this one on her.

2016 GEICO 500 – Talladega Superspeedway

Another superspeedway crash head-on into the inside wall at bad angle. Not that any of them would be a good angle to drive into going over 200 mph. This one looked surprisingly similar to —

2017 GEICO 500 – Talladega Superspeedway

https://youtu.be/HRD98Y13AkY

Pretty much the same spot. And angle. And the week leading up to Saturday’s crash. Maybe a little sour on the sport at this point?

Now, this isn’t to excuse her on-track performance. The performance has not matched the hype, we get all of that. However, she has taken a beating this year, and the last couple of years in particular. Successive impacts on back-to-back weeks like she’s had at Talladega and Kansas aren’t good for one’s longevity or odds on going the season without missing a race or two.

Like Rudy Ruettiger, she’s 5-foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and those types of hits start to add up after a while. Ask a 5-footer like Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Carl Edwards and why one has walked away early, while the other is penning his farewell letter over the next six months.

What we saw on Saturday night wasn’t so much insensitivity or selfishness, but in a roundabout way, you saw a professional racecar driver surmise why they don’t want to do it anymore. It’s often said when a driver gets scared about crashing or fearing the worst, it’s time to hang it up.

While it’s just my uninformed opinion, I’m starting to get the impression that this might be her last season as a full-time Cup Series regular. She’s done her part in helping to promote the sport and get more eyes on it as it was trying to extricate itself from the collapse of the auto industry in 2008 and the blow that motorsports as a whole suffered the next few years.

More marketing machine than driver? Yes, and quite an effective one at that. Many of the teams she’s driven for would not have existed had she not brought sponsor dollars willing to invest in her name, if not her stat sheet.

She’s done far more good than bad for NASCAR, so let’s give her a pass for an unflattering moment on TV for those head-on impacts she’s mailed in these last couple of years.

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About Vito Pugliese

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Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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28 comments

  1. Avatar

    If this case of Danica playing the sore loser was just a one-off, I’d be more understanding.

    However, this is who she is. She was this way in CART, she was this way in Ixfinity/Nationwide and she’s been this way in Cup.

    It is NEVER her fault. It’s ALWAYS something else. Poor, poor Danica. Why doesn’t she get any breaks?

    Quite frankly, she’s a surly, snarly, unlikable driver who’s done far more harm to future female drivers than helped.

  2. Avatar

    I seem to recall the expert commentary from the FOX knuckleheads, in explained the smart driving skills of how Danica, let go of the steering wheel prior to her crash in first Daytona 500. Checking out Vito’s clips, i can now see how she has not only developed that skill and continues to work on improving it. Give us a break, Richard Petty had it exactly right, that she can drive but she can’t race.

    • Avatar

      Dale Earnhardt used to say “Good driver. Bad racer.” Describes more than a few. Now it’s “Good driver. Doesn’t like to race.”

      Was it Richard or Kyle Petty? Kyle got crucified for some comments about Danica.

      When Danica qualifies faster than Jimmie Johnson numerous times how good does that make Johnson?

  3. Avatar

    “It was the first time in almost three years that she had a car that was remotely competitive ”

    Seriously? How do you know that? Rather than assume (with absolutely no proof) that it is the car, consider another factor: It’s the driver.

    To deduce that the car is the problem is an “alternative fact”.

    SHR has among the best resources in the business. Her teammates make good use of those assets. Patrick squanders them. She’s had multiple crew chiefs, pit crews, cars (the swap with Kyle Busch at the end of 2014). The one variable is Patrick herself.

    As for her comments, they were pure Danica – she has sung the same tune many times before always blaming somebody else. Giving “her a pass” for a pattern of conduct is clearly not appropriate. You don’t reward (or try to minimize/defend) bad behavior.

    The cause of Patrick not having a good run in three years is not the car – it’s her ego and unwillingness to admit she’s nothing more, at best, than a journeyman driver.

  4. Avatar

    Is she the female version of Kyle Busch? Nobody likes his interviews after a problem either. It’s never their fault.

    • Avatar

      I can’t stand Kyle. He and his brother are my 39th and 40th favorite drivers. Still, he has the stats to back up being an outspoken dick. That doesn’t mean he’s right but stats/success on the track gives you a bit more latitude to be a diva without looking like a total moron.

  5. Avatar

    It’s kind of funny but I saw her interview live and didn’t think anything of it. I understood her frustration. She did do the same thing that all drivers do all the time. She spoke of culpibity before seeing the tape. Again I have no problem with that.

    I knew when she came to NASCAR she would have problems adjusting. Why the media didn’t see it is beyond me. Montoya and Hornish were open wheel champions and were no balls of fire in NASCAR. Personally I blame GodaddY for most of her problems. She did not do well in Xfinity but with the money they were paying they pushed her to Cup too soon. And the media constantly making excuses for every mistake she made turned fans off. To the point of hating her is a stretch. To the point that if you said anything against her you were a Danica hater. That’s stupid and rediculus.. Citing a poor performance by looking at the record book doesn’t automatically make you a hater. I do realize there are some fans that have gone overboard in their condemnation but they are definitely in the minority. Her viability as a sponsor magnate still exists and will guarantee her a job for the foreseeable future. However it may not be with the a top team. Fans should keep in mind that many top teams are having difficulties attracting full time sponsors as the sport continues its downward spiral in popularity.

    It’s time the media backed off the Danica bandwagon. Fans like the underdogs and her performance places her back there with them and fans resent her getting far more attention then the rest of them put together.

  6. Avatar

    She has been an inspiration to all little girls who watch 4 hours of NASCAR every week. They all will in time be looking for billionaire Go Daddies to enrich themselves. And a great lesson to talented local and regional racers in that NASCAR will love you unconditionally if you bring money to their pockets. If you have talent but no money stay home. Play tennis or something.

  7. Avatar

    Always amazes me how vicious and personal that responses are about Danica Patrick. Yes, she was over hyped. So was Joey Logano. So have been many drivers over the years. I am tempted to wonder if some of the vituperation is based on latent sexism and resentment that ‘the chick’ is getting more press than the guys? How much does it have to do with her lack of successor is it resentment that she is getting an opportunity they feel should go to someone else? Again, not the first time. Just wondering.

    • Avatar

      Yep Joey also came into the series with a media induced scarlet letter (“sliced bread” indeed) but he didn’t totally suck like Dancia has. He had experience from lower series and success in those lower series (what are the highlights of Danica’s pre-Cup career? Where did she dominate?). He didn’t live up to the expectations but there was definitely talent there. He had some top 5s and top 10s along the way and, most importantly, showed improvement as he progressed.
      That’s the difference.

    • Avatar

      “Sexism” the go-to response for those that would rather ignore her results (truly awful) and make excuses for her.

      Totally ludicrous tenet especially when the facts (you know, her statistics) show how specious that argument is.

      The sexism argument doesn’t pass the smell test but apparently that’s the best her fans have to offer

  8. Avatar

    Vito, stop embarrassing yourself

  9. Avatar

    The only reason she is polarizing is because 1) she was hyped to the nth degree when she came into the series (despite not having any success in the lower series) just because of her anatomy, and 2) she has been in a top tier ride for 5 years and it is obvious she isn’t qualified yet she still has that seat despite the suckiest stats I can remember for someone in a top tier ride.

    Had she came in to the cup series quietly, like any other back marker driver that isn’t expected to be “the next ????”, and occupied a 3rd tier car (until she had proven she was qualified) she’d be getting the same amount of fan hate as Landon Cassill or Josh Wise. But nooooo, she didn’t even win a lousy X-finity race and was given the keys to the kingdom. I can’t think of one other driver that was put in a top tier ride, has had her (lack of) success, and still been able to keep that top tier ride for 5 years. Please, someone, give me an example.

    • Avatar

      Paul Menard has been in the series with DEI and RCR – and won 1 race, and only keeps his seat because of Daddy’s money. It just is what it is…

      I don’t dislike Danica, i just think when there’s as bad an accident as that one – you show some compassion. This is no diff than people hoping she was ok.

      Either way – if she retires, she’s still done a good bit for exposure of the sport, can’t take that away from her.

      • Avatar

        Agreed, Paul Menard is a good example as well. The difference, he keeps a quiet profile, the media doesn’t jam him down our throats, isn’t treated like a star by fans or the media, he has had a few successes and, technically, he’s not on a top tier team (Childress is 2nd tier by any definition, don’t contend for wins that often, hasn’t won a championship in over a two decades).

        • Avatar

          YEs, agree- RCR has gone to that tier 2 status – which is sad, but i guess every org struggles (RFR). Either way – you’re right – he’s super quiet, and isn’t jammed down our throat.

          You know – i’m really surprised Suarez hasn’t been a bigger story this year. With stepping into what may have been 2016 Championship team. ANd – with all of the Drive for diversity stuff (and no, before anyone reads into this – im’ not a racist – in fact i’m what you would call a “minority”). It’s a great story for the sport, and also another avenue for exposure. He lucked into a championship (3 wins vs 8 for the kid in the 77 if i remember correctly) – but making a point – there are more stories than Danica and Dale Jr. Everyone out there who reports on this stuff – seems to forget.

          Hell – there’s not even been much news about Almirola – and he’s the one with an effed back.

          more rambles by yours truly

          • Avatar

            Much like NASCAR loves showing wrecks in their commercials, NASCAR websites like writing about subjects that are polarizing or make the biggest splash. Compare the number of comments on this article to most of the others. We are being baited most times into clicking on and commenting because they write about topics that elicit the most controversy which translates into responses and clicks. Articles about Almirola or Suarez have a much lower probability of being clicked on than articles about Jr or Danica. It’s simple math. So I guess we are being played, shame on us.

          • Avatar

            I can’t reply to your comment – but it’s a very good point Bill. We are sheep….

            Darn it. Fooled again!

  10. Avatar

    Ah Shaddduppp Vito, you and your kind. Jesus H. Christ. Every single one of you from Nate Ryan to Beth L (no I am not spelling her last name) and everyone in between have parroted the same crap!!!!!!!!!!!!! Crap, crap, crap and crap!

    Sorry had to get that off my chest……

    MOST fans see her actions differently, most fans have seen her actions and have a firm grasp on her shortcoming and realities of her uncontrolled temperament. Most fans see her narcissistic personality Most fans do not agree with your assessment of her bringing as a wow factor. Yes that money went to fund ONE TEAM, which is great..for those who are employed with that team!!!

    The T Shirt sales like JUYNNORR, those numbers cannot be denied, everything else, I have a rainbow colored unicorn tied up in my backyard..wanna see?

    This woman blew IMO many opportunities to have some skin in the Cup game, where she would not be taken as a joke, she did not work at it! She chose the lazy, entitle route. She could have dropped down in the lower series, and really worked at perfecting this craft. She chose not to. She also seem very lazy as a sponsor ambassador, once GODADDY dropped her. She walked thru the GODADDY garbage anyways, it was built in robotics. She had to “reinvent” herself to a small degree with other companies and she just did not do it. What was she going to brag about or boast about, that wasn’t old..nothing new in accomplishments, nothing to sell, nothing new.