Crash.Net NASCAR News
Patrick reflects on first big Cup wreck
24 February 2012
If Danica Patrick wanted to make an impression at Daytona, she certainly managed that: a head-on impact into the infield SAFER barrier at almost full speed during the first Gatorade Duel made even hardened veterans of the series wince in sympathy.
But Danica insisted that the Thursday crash wouldn't affect her performance in Saturday's Nationwide Series race or in Sunday's Daytona 500, which she will have to start from the rear of the field as a result of needing to take to her back-up car.
"We are not average people," she pointed out. "We race, I'm not saying we crash for a living, but it is part of racing for a living ... Do I like crashing? Of course not. I don't think anybody likes crashing, but it's part of the business and it's part of big pack racing like this."
Right up to the crash itself, Patrick had been enjoying the race and learning all the time. "It was good to run around and see even when I was further back to see how things happened, how lines moved and people used each other," she said. "I was relaxed in the car and I felt good. I felt comfortable. I feel more ready for Sunday."
She can take some reassurance that her first big wreck in the Sprint Cup series was nothing to do with her and that she was purely in the wrong place at the wrong time. "The first car hits the second car, as the second car hits the third car and then you know I was the third car. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do ... It is what it is. Honestly, that stuff happens. Everybody is getting greedy right at the end. To be honest I'm surprised it didn't happen at lap 10."
Replays showed that up ahead, Jamie McMurray had started to wobble through the corner, which knocked Aric Almirola down into Patrick and sent her flying off into the infield. It had all happened so fast that not even those involved had known what caused it until they saw the footage, with Almirola originally thinking he'd been turned by Patrick from behind.
"At first he said I hit his left-rear corner and then I was like 'woah stop the tape I didn't hit anybody! I had the wheels straight.' I was a little mad by that, but then I said 'ok so you got hit and you came into me,", she said. "He then sent me a text later on and said he saw the accident and he's sorry that it ended up like that and that he had talked to Jamie."
Patrick was able to climb out unassisted from the wreck of the #10 and walk to the medical car, but admitted she'd taken a few knocks. "I hit my foot on the clutch, which is my fault because I moved the clutch pedal towards me. I hit my arm on the side of the seat because of the angle I went in on the right front."
She added that she had been a bit sore in the evening but that she was feeling better on Friday morning. "My husband is a physical therapist so he's got a lot of good tricks and we've got a lot of good tricks on the bus to take care of things that don't feel right," she said. "That is why I feel better today."
Patrick was in a unique position to compare the experience of crashing in a NASCAR Car of Tomorrow as opposed to an Indy car.
"In an Indy car I feel like your belts are tighter. You are really tight in an Indy car mostly because even for the lateral load that you get in the corner you can't be moving around at all," she said. "As far as the impact goes, there is a little less room to move around in an Indy car and you are very confined ... In an Indy car if your arm hits the side it's literally hitting the side of the car, the side of the tub. There is just a lot less room to fly around.
"When you hit in an Indy car you hit quick. There is a lot less recoil I feel like. It's like you hit and you slide along the wall," she explained. "Oddly enough, the impacts feel kind of bigger in a stock car. I think it is because of the room you can move and that the cars bounce a little bit more when they hit. They don't just crush and slow down. There is a bounce there."
She cited the big hit she took very early in her IndyCar career when she crashed at the Milwaukee Mile in 2005. "I spun in one and two in the Indy car. I hit back in and back in two and it spun around and it hit on the inside wall and that second hit felt bigger than the first hit. Sometimes the aftershocks are the parts that hurt a little bit."
Demonstrating the difference in racing cultures between open wheel and stock car competition, Patrick was questioned about why she had released the steering wheel ahead of the car making impact against the SAFER barrier - an instinctive action for an IndyCar driver that perplexed NASCAR fans.
"No, I wasn't covering my eyes!" she laughed off suggestions from the media. "But yes, I did close them as I got to the wall. I didn't want my eyes to pop out of my head.
"In Indy cars we learn to take the hands off the wheel because the holes for your hand are even smaller and we have dashes and the wheel flips," she said. "I've had plenty of times where I have bruised my thumb, my bones, on the wheel. I was trained to, when there is no saving it and no hope, you let go. That is what I did yesterday."
She added that the safety crews had approved of her instincts. "I was just talking to medical on the way in here actually and he was giving me some 'at a girl' on doing that because all kinds of things can happen the more you connect yourself with stuff," she said.
The level of intensity of the questions - What was she doing with her hands? Was she covering her eyes? - shows just how much intense scrutiny Danica comes under in the sport. But she insisted that she didn't resent the attention or want it to diminish anytime soon.
"I feel very lucky to be in the situation that I'm in. I feel lucky to be unique and different," she insisted. "I enjoy being different. I enjoy being unique. I enjoy it all. I really do. I chose to look at the positives that come with it instead of the negatives, but it is a balance. The ups are really good and the downs are sure disappointing.
"I have lots of great fans and I'm always so grateful when people write nice things about me," she added. "The people that don't, I also respect that perspective as well."